Sunday, December 19, 2010
On the Method of Obtaining the Foremost Shabazz Palaces Work entitled "Barksdale Corners" and a Preliminary Attempt at Its Exegesis: Part I of II.
Listen to Barksdale Corners here.
I'm a bit late posting this story: an exclusive new Shabazz Palaces track called "Barksdale Corners" on palaceer pusher beat circa Now has been released as one side of 7-inch that came free with issue 4 of I Want You magazine (see 7-inch artwork above, by davidope). I Want You is a quarterly art magazine. Each issue is full color, large format (9.5″ x 13.25″) and limited to 1,000 copies. Current issues are always FREE. Being free means you still pay postage of $5 but it's well worth it for this mindbending track and some art too some of which is fine. Needless to say the fact it's by SP, is limited to 100 copies, and is made from tastful mauve-coloured vinyl means future generations will be losing their inheritances when the odd copy surfaces on ebay. As for the song, it is just too much. How can I describe that which has never been heard or dreamed of? You can hear it for yourself. What I can say is that it most convincingly throws you into its own universe, which I've tried to explore below in my discussion of the lyrics. The b-side is by someone called Stellar Om Source (who also makes beautiful art) and is fittingly transcendental too. "Barksdale" refers to Avon Barksdale, a drug dealer character from the TV show The Wire (pictured below), and the song is just something else. An attempt at lyrical transcription has been made below, but I ask for your help dear readers, since as ever Lazaro's words don't reveal themselves without some effort on behalf of more than one listener.
Barksdale Corners - Lyrics
Let's make it a place to go.
With a hundred new styles we'll shine.
Drop shadowy zebra print. [?]
The white horse with the wings to fly.
Make it a time to move.
Twist the knives for the place to go.
The black light will illuminate the sound,
and pushers on blocks will run.
System. I'm up in your system. System. (x2)
System. I’m up in the system. System. (x4)
Lights slice across the set
Gold dice tumble towards the riches off my bets
Crashing institutions, shooting eastward in a jet
A revolution down to the glitches in our sets
Threats try to pose
The flash froze em cold
Gold never fold
Royal colours gettin rogue [rolled?]
Flights book, rice cooks, ice looks dazzling
Seats on the lay back, time on javelins
I rock the brunos in a varied tone
Wavy like a herring bone
My shades boast the ice glaze
My Tacomas is cherry chrome
I stays the ???
The styles in a plasma charisma
That's what's selling.
We snuck the choppers hundred-fifty clicks on camels
Holy Land mercenaries' blood oaths we bound to.
The fixer's villa, it overlooks the channel,
He promised he could touch the judge before he dropped his gavel.
Gun point straight while Sway test the powder
1.8, beast'd estimate the value.
Red rooms, black lights, cross indigo carpets
We ghettoize the market,
fraternize in utter sharpness
We watch you white lights making sparkles in the furnace
It's midnight down here though so you get swallowed up in darkness
Automatic push-button remote control,
Synthetic genetics commands your soul.
The first verse starts with a call to “make it a place to go.” What does “it” refer to? Perhaps it’s the corners that an Avon Barksdale fights with other drug dealers over. How many neighbourhoods around the world are infested with drug crime? Though the track at first listen appears to reference a glamorous and dangerous culture of international organized crime, that’s just part of the genius of it. To many (poor) reviewers, Cherrywine was just an extended to ode to ‘bitches, gangstas, and cocaine’! But for those willing to listen, there’s also a powerful message: let’s get better. Let’s make these corners a place to go, instead of somewhere to buy crack. “A hundred new styles” implying the creativity that’s needed in order for “us (the African American community?) to shine”. But how? “The white horse with the wings to fly” is a clue. Such a beast is also featured on the artwork in the inlay card of Eagles Soar, Oil Flows. It is none other than Buraq, (see fanciful 17th-century Mughal representation below) the winged horse that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) mounted before the Night Journey (Al-Israa wal-Mi’raaj) and ascended the seven heavens until the Lote Tree of the furthest boundary, into the direct presence of Allah. This connection with Islam brings to mind the stories one reads periodically about African American communities embracing Islam and forthwith ridding their communities of crack houses, brothels, and drug dealers in instances of vigilante community-level justice. A famous example was the cleaning up of part of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn under the leadership of Imam Siraj Wahhaj (photo below), may his life be extended.
“Make it a time to move” continues the sense of urgency Lazaro understands is necessary to bring about such a change. I can’t make much of “twist the knives for the place to go” other than the possibility that things will necessarily get worse before they get better. But hopefully “the black light will illuminate the sound, and pushers on blocks will run.” Now they run from blue cop lights only to return before long, but only when black light illuminates the scene, perhaps meaning change from within, will things be transformed for good.
The chorus is my favourite thing: I’ve never heard that kind of vocal sound effect. The different voices he uses each time allude to the different meanings of system. First it’s “your system” and as you listen with earphones plugged, bass drum thumping, synth lines pursuing their slow, demented wobble, there’s no doubt he is in your system. But then it’s “the system”, bringing to mind the way in which this music was released. No mention of who it was, no publicity whatsoever, nothing. They just put it out there and sat back as it infiltrated the system. This gloating tone is contrasted yet again with a third possible way in which to take the words, as the voice becomes childlike: an existential rumination on being. Oddly enough, I exist in this reality. I’m up in the system.
To be continued...
Q: Could the white horse not refer to Pegasus?
A: I have not discounted that idea. Buraq is more likely I think because of the other Islamic symbols in the EPs' artwork, however Pegasus also ascended to heaven at some point, so the idea of elevation is still there. Incidentally, from the 'renaissance' onwards, Pegasus came to symbolise poetry.