Sunday, February 28, 2010

This Time... Can Blow Your Mind

I'd forgotten how beautiful this song was: In Here feat. Nia Long from the never-released Ishmael Since 1999 LP. I know there are some promo copies around so if anyone knows how I could obtain or at least hear it please let me know... reading the press release on the old Red Ant Records site was as far as we got. I recall it was co-produced by a Marcel Sanders, and that Ish "wanted the songs to sound like the beginning of the world." A suitable feel for what was to be his rebirth as a solo artist, and perfectly describes the vibe of the few tracks I have heard.

Ish's ability to paint a picture with so many details while keeping an overall harmony is bewildering. Listen to this song: the disillusionment with 'the world' in the first few verses, the mystical/paradisal aspect as "something frozen slides in place", the emotions build up as she listens to his bitter reflections on life before trying to finally reassure him "I'm not going anywhere", at which point the guitar kicks in and man and woman come together as they've always done. No words, just vibrating electric strings making waves. This time can blow your mind, but we've also been given a sanctuary from all that. Coming back down to earth, the last verse can only be one of promise, of fidelity, which is another word for faith. We can't control much of what's outside but our hearts remain our private garden, to either neglect or nurture. There are so many other things about this song that amaze me but which I lack the eloquence to articulate. A true love song.

In Here lyrics:

A thousand plans, a million dreams
The slow crash of everything
The babies know all the words to sing
Spotlight burning down the kings
Out there

Twisting up the shiny wheels
Love kills, fake is real
Can't forget you dollar bill
Everyone'll cut a deal
Out there

It's wild in the rats race
We trying to win and beat the case
Famous(?) leave without a trace
Something frozen slides in place
Out there

It all happens razor fast
Waiting for your chance to blast
Trade love for fun and dough for trust
Ash to cash and dust to dust
Out there

This time
Can blow your mind

But you won't lie and I won't flee
We rich, we broke, we trapped, we free
And I won't lie and you won't freeze
We rich, we broke, we trapped, we free
And we can solve this mystery
Then me is you and you'll be me
In here

Saturday, February 27, 2010

We Only Pursue That Which Destroys

Dividing an artist's career into distinct stages is useful only in so far as it helps us get a grip on what can be a bewilderingly wide spectrum of work. Based on his four artistic personae then, we could view Ish's output as falling under these four phases: Digable Planets, Ishmael, Cherrywine, and Shabazz Palaces. Today's entry covers all of the above.

Firstly, a classic clip (1992?) of Digable performing Rebirth of Slick on In Living Color.

Secondly, a rare and insightful commentary and dialogue by Mtume ya Salaam and Kalamu ya Salaam on Cherrywine and how that particular persona allowed Ish to be as 'political' as ever while distancing himself from the usual political discourse. This is from back in 2005; refreshing to see that someone actually got it! Strictly speaking, Salaam's argument also covers the second phase as his argument draws upon 16th minute, a song from that unreleased 'holy grail', Ishmael Since 1999.

Finally, some Shabazz for you! Andrew Matson was fortunate enough to interview Ish before his debut show, although the end product features less of the interviewee's thoughts than the interviewer's. Telling us of Lazaro's speaking in 'philosophical abstractions about his creative process' and failing to quote him is tantalising to the point of cruelty! Somewhat more satisfyingly, Larry Mizell Jr weighs in with a muscular commentary on Seattle's hip-hop royalty. And a little more here. Finally, here are some photos from the show thanks to Joey Baltimore:

I have to apologise for the lack of updates. I've now realised that I simply won't be able to produce any of my own commentary/essays on Shabazz Palaces until I complete my studies this summer, so until then I hope to continue linking to other good stuff, insha Allah.