Thursday, July 29, 2010

See the Music of the Week

Balam Acab - See Birds (Tri Angle, 2010)

Seattle Capitol Hill Block Party III - Video Footage

Allahu Akbar (God is the Greatest)

Tendai's Mbira intro to Blastit

Break Bread

Automatic Push Button Remote Control Synthetic Genetic Commands Your Soul

Seattle Capitol Hill Block Party II - Photographs

By Alan Crick

By Spratt504

By Spratt504

By Jason Tang

By Spratt504

By Alan Berner, from Matson on Music

Seattle Capitol Hill Block Party I - Reviews

Eyewitnesses present testimony of SP's second sonic assault on Seattle.

-The Three Imaginary Girls blog said:

There have been criticisms and speculations that Shabazz Palaces' set was hampered by some struggling sound problems and that it should have been in a less airy, open environment. Due to the music being connected to metanoid images of relational decay and underground struggle, some reported they would have preferred the performance held at Neumos down the block instead of the main stage. I agree in theory, but performance just isn't about sound, it's about vibe. SP actually sound like they have a staggering root in hardcore communal scenes like DC's Go-Go and syncopated, anthemic groups such as King Sunny Ade and other Juju performers. Because they are as prophetically prayed for and prized as a band like The Clash in the early punk days, people have extremely high expectations. As for the sound, well, it was the first humungous show of the BP, and festivals always have early kinks to work out, so all eyes and ears were wide open to catch any flaw. The problem is, for their second show, Ishmael and his collective created music that was extremely hard for most bands at the CHBP to follow. Sour grapes, anyone? Props to the scheduling people for being so assertive and kicking things off atomically with SP.

-As for the Seattle Subsonic blog:

I kind of figured going in that Shabazz Palaces might end up TOTALLY RULING. And guess what, their sun-shrouded, mid-evening set TOTALLY RULED. It was the best thing I saw all day, and my day included U.S.F., Champagne Champagne, Mahjongg, and Holy Fuck. The mystical afro-centric output from these cloak-n-dagger rap wizards put his eminence (at this point, you have to use a word like that) Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler on full point in front of a full main stage crowd. People were overheard using exclamations like “Houdini” and “a modern Rick James” (probably due to the dark purple shirt unbuttoned halfway down Ish’s chest; FLY!). I wouldn’t necessarily advocate repeating those analogies to anyone, but I can understand their inception. If you’ve slept on Shabazz up until now, I highly suggest you rectify that because, with all due respect to Sir Mix-A-Lot, Vitamin D, the Blue Scholars or any other local hip-hoppers to make tall waves, Butler and his congo compadre Tendai Maraire have put such a magical and heretofore unfathomable spin on a tired genre, that it’s practically a crime if you don’t. High praise indeed, but it’s hard not be struck by Shabazz Palaces unique concoction of intelligent thuggery and wide, Central District-born worldviews, all presented with a modest Islamic militancy, window rattlin’ bass, and swirly, crazy-ass electro beats. I can only think of two other rap albums that I might place the 2 EPs Shabazz Palaces has produced before on my desert island hip-hop list (taste indicator: All Eyez On Me by Tupac and Life Is…Too Short by Too Short), and that wouldn’t even be a given at this point.

Ish’s voice did sound higher than normal (huffin’ that helium before his set?), which was mildly confusing/distracting, but the tightness of his cadence and the gravity of his mindset brought everything to the level. He seemed to fire more quickly than he does on record, and you could tell he was hyped, even if their stage presence in general seems subdued. It’s because they know they’re right. I can guarantee that the duo made many new fans yesterday. Local, deep-voiced Shabazz collaborator Dougie came onstage for his three cuts, and they even played three new songs, by my count.

-The Seattle Times' Andrew Matson wrote:

What was up with Palaceer Lazaro's vocals? Following a lengthy and (what looked like a) frustrating sound check, the auteur behind Central District avant-rap act Shabazz Palaces rapped into his microphone like normal but his voice came out thin and, to my ears, double-tracked and panned to the Main Stage speakers' peripheries. By contrast, percussionist/back-up vocalist Tendai Maraire's vocals came across full and centered. It was a shame because Lazaro is the best rapper in Seattle by roughly one billion miles, and one where details matter, where slight nuances in pronunciation reveal new rhythms and meanings.

He looked great, though, lips sneering, eyes alternatingly downcast and googly. Clothed in all-fuschia everything, with bright white high tops on his feet and a wooden medallion of dislocated angel wings around his neck, he was easily the best dressed Block Party performer all day.

Shabazz's set included songs from its 2009 "Shabazz Palaces" and "Of Light" micro-albums, with minor variations. The seething "Capitol 5" featured a gothic street verse from fellow Central District rapper Dougie, and its extended chant-style outro was excised and used earlier in the set as an interlude. "Find Out" and "Blastit" were notably excellent sounding, with the bass and drums on the former full of wow and crack, and Maraire's mbira on the latter supplying metallic texture.

Unreleased Shabazz songs saw the light of day, too. One had Lazaro chanting "Allahu Akbar" and freestyling over a boom-snap rhythm: "Tendai / stay fly." Another was a slow sweep with swooping bass lines; Maraire played shakers and cooed into his microphone while Butler Lazaro rapped something about being "All up in your system." Toward the end of the set came a new song built around a mantra: "Automatic push button remote control / synthetic genetic command your soul."

-Meanwhile, from the pen of Travis Hay of Ear Candy:

Shabazz Palaces had the thousands of people watching them enraptured by their non-traditional hip-hop beats and Ish Butler's distinctive flow. Initially I wasn't going to watch Shabazz Palaces because their set at Neumos in January was so epic that I didn't want to taint that experience but I am glad I did watch a solid 25 minutes of their CHBP set (which was only their second public performance in Seattle). Yes, I left Shabazz early to see Unnatural Helpers but I saw enough of Shabazz's set to affirm my belief that they are indeed the real deal and they produce the best hip-hop Seattle has ever seen.

-And finally, The Stranger's Brendan Kiley felt that

Shabazz Palaces Were a Great Way to Kick Off Block Party. They were. Best show of the weekend so far—and maybe best show of the weekend.

But their paranoid, claustrophobic sound works much better in a cave (like their legendary coming-out show at Neumos) than outdoors in the late afternoon.

Just saying.

Still, they did what they do with excellence and grace. And Ish can wear purple—not everybody can pull that off. And I had at least three conversations with people in the crowd who hadn't seen SP before, thought they were fantastic (even outside of a cave), and had no idea Ishmael had been a part of Digable Planets. And they listened with a whole new level of intensity.

Meaning: the legend continues. In the sunset.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

BKLYN: Weeksville Photographs

Back in April I was hoping to catch my first SP live show when Digable played London. Ish remarked that Tendai hadn't been able to get his passport in time, but that he still wanted to perform some solo Shabazz on tour, but when his laptop was thieved in Brussels it was clear it wasn't meant to be.

Finding myself in the DC environs a few months later I was overjoyed to find out SP were playing an almost secret gig as part of their covert summer tour in the Weeksville Heritage Centre in Brooklyn NY. This place marks the first free African American community in the land, and every July they put on free garden parties every weekend. The plan was to head up to NY on friday for which we booked tickets on the Chinatown bus, but then my newlywed came down ill so we lost those. On saturday morning we decided to go up anyway, and booked a rental car but went to pick it up and discovered the place closed 2 minutes earlier, at noon! Once again, it was clear it wasn't meant to be. So third time lucky inshallah.

So here are some photographs of the bug day courtesy of Ed Marshall. Note all three group members are in the house.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Music in the House Tonight

This week: an unreleased track that Shabazz have performed at their live shows, we could call it Show Tonight and hope for a studio version on the next releases. Artists always say live shows allow their songs to be fresh and different each time. Doing so with a non-live instrumentation set up presents its own challenges, and what is amazing about Shabazz is firstly how they put on a compelling live show whilst at the same time being just two guys behind some drums and a laptop and mpc - an arrangement that might cure insomnia attempted by the average. But secondly the digital avenue allows them to literally change each song each time they play, so listen for the new sounds and lyrics in this version, unheard in a previous performance (from their debut show in January, see 2nd video below), which again will most likely be very different next time...

Shabazz Palaces - Show Tonight (Live at Rotture, Portland, OR. July 14 2010)

Shabazz Palaces - Show Tonight (Live at Neumos, Seattle, WA. January 8 2010)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Just heard a great interview with Ish thanks to Breaktime with Seattle Show Gal. It's a good half hour and in real time, very ad hoc with lots of laughter and strange pauses!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tour Dates

Shabazz Palaces haven't announced the fact they're touring but through some web trawling here's what I've found:

July 14 - Portland, OR (Rotture)
July 15 - Sebastopol, CA (Hopmonk Tavern)
July 16 - San Francisco, CA (Yoshis)
July 17 - Brooklyn, NY (Weeksville Heritage Centre)
July 23 - Seattle, WA (Capital Hill Block Party)

...and with Digable:

August 20 - Seattle, WA (Neumos)

Let me know of any other dates you find. Will try to make the Brooklyn show.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Birthday Music

Forgive the lack of updates... In the last two weeks I had my final exams, moved house and flew across the atlantic to get married, which will happen in a few days. Watch out for SP summer tour dates coming soon.

Oh yes, today is Palaceer Lazaro's birthday...! May he live long and continue to astound the world. What a blessing to live in the time of his music. This remix of that song on 4Hero's Mercury Music Award-winning Two Pages album is much better than the original one produced by Shawn J. Period. I never understood why, if they decided to bring in an outside producer, they didn't get Ish to do it. The result was underwhelming, but this remix brings out the full potential allowing the lyrics to shine. This is just a happy piece of music and a sweet video.

4Hero feat. Ish aka Butterfly - The Action (Visioneers remix) (The Remix Album, Raw Canvas Records, 2004)