Saturday, December 31, 2011

tunes - thee satisfaction "kinks"

"i've moved on." = new australian interview

this is a really interesting interview, mostly because the journalist is so jaded and obnoxious. i love what ish says about names. i just gave my self a new name yesterday, shamål, which means 'wind' and 'north'. also- rumours of future digable planets reunions are put to sleep.

shabazz palaces interview with by patrick abboud

Saturday, December 17, 2011

2 new interviews

one with (australia) shabazz palaces interview

...and another from manchester's (uk)

ill communication radio show with nick costello:

NEW TRACK... for most of u anyway

thanx to stacia, a devoted ishmaelite, for going down to the cellar and tracking down this vintage bottle of cherrywine. she recorded it off the video, then i boosted the gain. like she said "the quality sux, but it's ish."

this song came at the end of the movie "planet brooklyn" (formerly known as "men without jobs") and was made towards the end of the cherrywine era, like '06 or so. speaking with ish in '05 he let me know that he had finished recording the 2nd cherrywine LP which was going to be called little epic. he described it as "real minimal". i'll stick my neck out and say that this song was meant to be on that album. so that's 2 albums that ish has recorded but which never got released. fuck! but i'll also venture that some of that material made it onto shabazz palaces. i'm thinking in particular about "a mess, the booth soaks in palatial musk" which is definitely "real minimal".

anyway, this one's also notable for the fact u can make out (almost) all his lyrics straight away. turn ^ the volume

tunes: charles bradley

2011? yes. buy it! support this greatness.

Charles Bradley - The World (is Going Up in Flames) Official Video

Charles Bradley - Golden Rule (Live)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

tunes: forest swords' hjurt

what i'm listening to now:

forest swords - hjurt

it starts off pretty normal but aroud the 2 minute mark the cosmic angel revelation love descends

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

vice magazine interview

Coming and Going with Shabazz Palaces

By Toby Fehily

Baba Maraire

Great piece of SP's other half by that writer Zwickel (who wrote that great feature on Ish for city arts magazine). Trust me you want Tendai's LP, I have it and it's super. Here's the piece:

Baba Maraire: Shabazz Palaces' Other Half

Baba Maraire: Wona Baba Maraire by hearth_music

Thursday, December 8, 2011

live studio performance

for the guardian newspaper (uk). shabazz been getting much love from the british press. barksdale corners w/ bronny on a breakaway:

tonight: miami

shabazz play miami tonight. someone made this cool poster with lyrics to that song "whats up" that they've been playing live. that's one of most incredible things i've ever heard and surely one of their top tracks... hopefully we'll get a studio version soon. here are 2 live versions of it. with the second video (the treasure island one), you have to forward to 3:15.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

interview with tendai maraire

(artwork for tendai "baba" maraire's new lp, wona, by dumbeyes)

while in manchester, groovement did an interview with tendai maraire, in which this weblog gets a shout out =D tendai he gave me a copy of his new cd of shona music (the traditional sound of zimbabwe) which i've been loving and which you can get here

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

slumchella latest

the $3 holler. and.. dead prez will be joining shabazz in kenya!!


antidote to the "what happened to hiphop? everything's bullshit now" handwringing and moaning. don't people tire of being in that state of woe?

Monday, December 5, 2011


Every once in a while Ish sends some thoughts or in this case a photo straight to this weblog. Looks like this one of him, tendai, cat and stas (of thee stisfaction) was taken as they ended their european tour. i had a chance to hang out with all of them plus their manager jonathan in brimingham. such cool folk. report coming soon.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Don't ask me how I missed this one... it's been out for a couple weeks apparently. Blew my mind. Look out for another SP video from Kahlil Joseph coming soon, according to Palaceer who I caught up with in Birmingham (full report coming soon)

Footage from Berlin

Are you..? Can you...? Were You..? (Felt)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

friday night

The Europe Tour w/thee satisfaction kicks off tonight at the jazz cafe, london. i'm going over for the birmingham show tomorrow night (friday 18th) at the HMV institute. any readers of this site going? get at me either at eaglessoaroilflows AT or in the comments section below. so excited!!! peace> O

Friday, November 11, 2011

lost in thought ~*~\_/*\_/~*~ divine styler

check out this from one of the masters of electronic emotion john tejada, who i got into through the one and only divine styler

talking of divine, here's a nice episode of stocktown that sheds some light on what he's doing post-wordpower 2. damn - that album came out in 99! when are we going to hear some new shit from DS??! it's cool how he, like lazaro, has no time for the hip hop 'purist' backpacker brainswashed midstate. to me ish and divine styler are the essence of hip hop, flowing like water over and past the heavy stones. wow - imagine a collaboration ep or suchlike. now that would be immense. fast forward to 19:15 if you want to get straight to styler.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

shabazz answer questions posed by music journalist

Check out this interview below from DUMMY MAGAZINE, or click here to read it in its original home.

Shabazz Palaces interview: "All rap." Universalist rapper unafraid to throw a little black glitter in the face of the rest takes ten minutes out to chat to Sunil Chauhan.

Text: Sunil Chauhan

Second chances in hip hop aren’t common but just as the late 90s indie-rap scene saw Zev Love X become MF Doom, Ishmael Butler has shed all traces of Butterfly (his moniker in 90s jazz-rap trio Digable Planets ) to reinvent himself as Palaceer Lazaro, the cryptic figure behind Shabazz Palaces, a Seattle-based outfit who – alongside rappers like Lil B, Death Grips and Odd Future – are making underground rap vital again.

Not so much conscious as subconscious (sub could also mean sub-bass – they have industrially heavy low end) rap, the Sub Pop-signed outfit’s debut ‘Black Up’, released at the end of June, might bring to mind 90s isolationism and dubwise labels like Wordsound but it somehow exists in its own vacuum, with hollowed out chasms and elusive imagery that relate back to Lazaro’s insistence that the album stay a personal, private experience. Reluctant to push any of his own ideas onto what anyone should get out of the record, he wriggles his way out of definitive answers, often just repeating “it’s a feeling”, the chorus of a song on ‘Black Up’ that could also double as the Palaces’ motto.

I spoke to Lazaro over the phone from his home in rainy Seattle.

How much did MF Doom’s reinvention make you think you could do something similar?

The idea of masks and not just literal masks but symbolic ones, artistic ones, it’s old African shit. But Doom, I’ve always liked him and I was a KMD fan so his music inspired me. I felt like the mask thing was dope, but it wasn’t directly influential to this thing here.

What difference did moving from New York back to Seattle make?

The environment you’re in is definitely going to influence the expressions you have. You spend 24 hours in a day, the type of influences that you get from your neighbours, or the weather, or something in the local news, it will influence you.

Did it make your music darker?

My music’s not really dark. It’s like comparing stuff you were wearing 20 years ago to the clothes you’re wearing now. Everyone’s changing all the time. I don’t feel it’s darker though. If anything, it’s more light, more luminous. I feel much more liberal now. My opinions are much less concrete. I appreciate more, and I do my best to appreciate things even if they’re not in my taste. I reserve judgement on almost everything. And I rarely talk about the judgments I do come to inside myself. I’m way less cynical. I’m not cynical at all, if I ever was. But definitely less than I was.

Not having photos or detailed credits, song titles that might be hard for most people to remember – is that to force concentration onto the music alone?

You play a guitar part or come up with a melody or a cadence, yeah someone did it, but the ideas came from somewhere else. It could be deep inside them or it could be from outside of them. So to then sit down and start talking about ‘hey tell me about the evolution of this’ and then someone else starts talking ‘I was with this guy and he did this’, that’s not really how the song came about. That’s just what the person is deciding to say. Some are more talented than others at remembering those things and making a historical anecdote out of them. We’re not. We just feel like this is what happened to us. Here it is. There’s the song. Now, if you like music, if you’re a critic, if you’re a talented listener and you got some thoughts and feelings, run with it. That’s what we expect from people that are doing that. It’s just that asking us about it, we’re not that good at saying what it’s all about. Without sounding self-centred or self-oriented, we don’t wanna do that. It’s not about being mysterious or hiding behind anonymity, we just made the song. What else is there? I thought it was a music thing. I didn’t know it was a talking thing.

Do you miss the pre-internet era when artists weren’t expected to be so visible?

I think a lot of artists today want that. Music is some secondary thing to maintain their public personality. I wasn’t made for this digital age. But I’m not into taking it back to no other days. I’m cool with how things are. I like it and I enjoy it. I don’t do things that don’t subscribe to my taste like a lot of shit on the internet, but I still love the internet, I still like to do what I do on there. It’s just not Facebook and Twitter. But artists don’t have to do it. They don’t have to do anything. Everyone’s given a choice.

Is there more pressure on rappers to constantly have something new available?

They’re entitled to that desire. I don’t think it’s not worthwhile, I just think it’s not always necessary. But I don’t feel like I’m engaged in some sort of battle with them. I think we got more similarities than we have differences. It’s still hip-hop, it’s still rap, it’s still black culture. It’s only going to be so many degrees of separation. But I don’t think about myself enough in the genre, in the realm of rap, to be wishing it was something other than what it is. I’m enjoying the stuff that I like. If I don’t like it, I don’t think ‘oh I wish it was more like this so I could like it’. I’m moving on to try and find something that I dig.

Do you listen to new rap?


Who do you like?

In the mainstream, I like Bun B a lot, I like how prolific Lil Wayne is, I like how Rick Ross went into the recent black culture in terms of finding figures to mythologize instead of Caucasian movie stars. I like that concept. I like Odd Future. I like all the classic 90s and 80s hip hop cos that’s the stuff I grew up on. I’m a hip-hop head, like the rest of the cats in the crew.

The album’s production reminds me of old dubstep. Was that an influence for you?

It’s interesting. They’ve used that to describe this, but I’ve never heard it. I mean, I’ve probably heard it but I can’t recognise the genre and then say something about it when I hear it. I’m not that loyal. I’ve probably heard a dubstep song but I don’t know what it is. Again, these ideas, these rhythms, as African descendants, when you go to your instinct, when you’re creating something, it could be coming from a place inside you that you can’t really pinpoint. So the fact that different cats are coming with similar rhythms, it’s not that surprising.

There’s the line on the album: ‘Things are looking blacker but black is looking whiter’. Is that about black music sounding European or about cultural assimilation, buying into the status quo?

It’s like all rap. It’s poetry. It has a literal purpose but it has infinitesimal layers of meaning as well because it’s symbols that we recognise. And when you see them, it could be the same symbol but we might have a different interpretation, especially if it’s in rhythm over a beat with harmony and melody. I don’t know what it meant. But I know what it meant to me. I’m not going to say what it is now though cos I don’t think it’s that important. But what it means to you I think, is.

Why is ambiguity so important?

But it’s only ambiguous until you make your decision, especially if you trust your feeling. When it comes to music, or some interpretation of a scene in a film, there’s not much at stake here, other than entertainment and maybe some learning. It’s not that serious you know? We don’t think about what people are going to do prior to them doing it. We’re not like ‘oh we’re gonna do this’ or ‘oh people have to do this’, we’re not trying to control or manipulate them. We don’t think about what we’re going to make. This is an expression based on instinct and love.

Friday, October 28, 2011

soaked in sex n bathed in light

lazaro surprises the fans at the sbtrkt show last night in seattle to sprinkle some shabazz flavour on the place for the last song "wildflower". wow... imagine being in the seattle crowd and getting a surprise like that, that's beautiful

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


grimes - oblivion (off her upcoming 3rd album 'visions')

grimes is a genius. i love the android singing that comes in at 2:30... fun fact: she makes everything on garageband...!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

weekend ~ all-american

lazaro has been biggin up this band, and this song especially, in interviews. as intense to shabazz' sound. nothin hits the spot like this when you're in the right state

Friday, October 21, 2011

gold n brown

when i listen to this i understand the meaning of the lyrics to 'the king new clothes were made by his own hands'.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

interview: stars align

(preying mantra by wangenchi mutu)

interview by dream hampton on can't wait to check out those books

Shabazz Palaces is Tendai Maraire and Ishmael Butler. The former employs ancient instruments from his homeland Zimbabwe while Butler provides the group’s vision and vocals. Their album Black Up is arguably the best reviewed album of the year. For Butler, who never stopped making music since he released his classic album by Digable Planets, Blowout Comb, Shabazz palaces is his latest place to play with ideas. Those ideas have always been simultaneously global in their expansiveness and basement ceiling low in their commitment to hip-hop’s bottom line. Here we talk to Butler about what he likes to hear and wear.

Life+Times: What’s the best thing in your closet?
Shabazz Palaces: White cordoury coat. 3/4 length. Vintage. Pimpish.

L+T: What’s your favorite character from City of God? What scene made him so?
SP: Benny at the party when he was telling Little Ze he was leaving and he was like “Dude I’m about to smoke, read and listen to rock’ is one.” But the best scene in the whole movie was when the little kid got shot in the foot. I felt that. Like, my foot hurt.

L+T: Name three books that permanently shaped your thinking.
SP: [Ben Orki's] The Famished Road, [Octavia E. Butler's] Wild Seed, [Richard K. Morgan's] Altered Carbon.

L+T: Tell me about the high school music teacher you had who taught you about jazz.
SP: Wadey Earving in Meaney Middle School was the man who taught me how to play saxophone. He was a very regal and elegant cat. Attentive and smart. My mom liked him. The kids dug him, he was patient and firm. He wore a suit everyday, a nice one too.

L+T: What’s special about Seattle?
SP: Thee Satisfaction and OCNOTES are really doing revolutionary things. OCNOTES is really walking on the outer reaches of music. These kids are kids of frontiersman, people who read a flyer and moved to a city in the 50s where no black people were. So we all innately have that explorer spirit. When Seattle kids go to other places like New York other people know and like them. Then there’s Punctuation, run by Maikoyo Alley-Barnes who’s making good shit and curating monthly art shows for local artists and providing a space where he’s designing functional and socialwear that’s well made and well designed. His spot is an epicenter for all of us.

L+T: He made those African inspired masks you wore when you played the Natural Museum of History last year, yes? Tell me what masking means to you.
SP: Yes…we talked about doing some theatrical and african stuff for the shows. He executed them and we wore them for the Stranger show too. Masking. It’s an understanding that when you’re given creative thoughts you know that it’s not all you. The mask is an extension or an indication that you’re representing something other than yourself.

L+T: Eric Dolphy pioneered what came to be known as “free jazz”. I know it’s not your term, but what frees music? And if you’ve ever found yourself feeling confined in any way musically, how’d you rediscover your musical freedom?
SP: Early on I wanted to be like Q Tip. When I came to hip-hop everything was constructed with 16 bars and a hook. I think at first you have to be involved in following in the footsteps of someone’s who’s done it. So you learn how it’s “supposed” to be done and you do that til you feel free enough in the foundation to depart from it. Going from your instinct to the finished product. After I learned how to follow the rules I abandoned them.

L+T: Artists Mikalene Thomas and Wangenchi Mutu, who you shout out on this album are favorites of yours, how do they influence you?
SP: That’s a good question cuz most people ask other musicians which musicians influence them. They both do sampling, pattern on pattern, color, texture, layering, title…like the text in Mutu’s work, or even how she approaches naming are all things I’m absorbing.

L+T: On the first album you did a lot to obscure of obfuscate your identity. On this album you relaxed.
SP: It was never about being an MF Doom or being mysterious or even anonymous. I just wanted to start fresh from Digable. Plus journalists are just wack they just ask the same mundane questions, they claim to be observationists but most of them are lazy. So I wanted to limit the extent that I participated in that whole dance, at least for the beginning, the first album. This is the second Shabazz Palaces album, and doing it this way felt right for this album.

new song

love this more melodic soulful direction

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


a magnificent project; ishmaelites blog will do its bit to support.

Monday, October 3, 2011

palaceer lazaro freestylin for berliners - allahu akbar

damn i wish they'd release a studio version of "allahu akbar"

the king's new clothes were made by his own hands *remix*

thanks to yours truly and gorilla vs bear i know you've all heard this by now. it's been on repeat round my neck of the woods for a while. ish and tendai remix black up's tribute to the elusive perfect beat. an ishmaelite saw them perform this beat in new york but with completely different lyrics in celebration of the apple. tendai is perfect on this. so much poise

say the producers:

"Somewhere in Dallas, surrounded on all sides by the deep-fryer-high heat, Chris and I picked Ish, Tendai and Jon up at a beaten down Best Western a few miles from Tomcast Studios. There were too many of us to ride legally in Chris’ SUV, so Tendai stuffed himself into the trunk beneath brick-filled suitcases and bulky stage equipment. Ish looked like a retired running back, a white gym towel draped over his head sopping up beads of sweat like a squeegee. Inside the car Ish didn’t say a word. He took a hundred yard stare, gripped his hands on the “oh shit handle,” and sat motionless, frozen. He had the look of a boxer on the scale, or a pitcher on his way to the mound — not lookin’ atcha, lookin’ past ya.

It wasn’t until after they nailed the take you see in the video above that the plates in Ish’s face parted, and the kid in him jumped off the front porch and sprinted into the street to play. He and Tendai high-fived, the teeth in their smile happy to see and be seen again.

The focus on the faces of Ish and Tendai as they prepped themselves to create that day remind me that creativity is a gift, shaping it into something special is a blessing, and the determination it takes to do so is rare. No one is more grateful to share in the act of creativity than yours truly, and every single session reminds me that I’m lucky."

Sunday, October 2, 2011


art by leif podhajsky

new interview with The Prague Post... shabazz palaces are in now in the baroque capital of the czech republic.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Meditations on Belhaven Meridian

As we await the new Kahlil Joseph-directed shabazz palaces vid which should be dropping soon, it seems about time that we spoke on Belhaven Meridian, the first and only official SP video, released in 2009.

settling dust

Back then, no one, including me, was really ready to offer more than a few words on the impression that this startling work of art made. Everyone caught on that it shouted out Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett’s recently ‘rediscovered’ 1979 classic. There were comments on the trippy upside down effect, but beyond that and the murmurs of awed appreciation, not much else.

It starts with the ignition of an engine, that of Palaceer Lazaro’s ’68 Chevy Camaro (serious car) After putting down his phone he declares, “It’s time.” We’re left to conclude that the impulse to start the journey comes almost as a command from an unknown, mysterious source, which Lazaro (who symbolises the ‘artist’, or ‘human being seeking self-realisation’) has no choice but to obey. This fits in with what he’s been expressing in interviews about the creative impulse. His lady (symbolising us, the observing audience) isn’t privy to the same secrets, but is happy to be along for the ride. She asks “Where are we going?” which beyond its obvious meaning (‘where are now driving to?’) also indicates humanity’s first question: ‘What’s the meaning of life? Why are we here and where are we going after this?’ As they drive off with that question left hanging in the air, the intro song (a mess, the booth soaks in palacian musk, palaceer in vintage LRG, yes pure NS,uppowndet watermelon lips beat) plays out and we feel we’re going to ‘find out’ the answer.

(art below by leif podhajsky)


These Arabic words then appear. The meaning is “He saves us”. The first possibility is that ‘He’ refers to the Divine, i.e. the Light/God/Allah/Jah i.e. the creator with a capital C. This would prefigure the main song’s (“find out”) lyrics - the most explicity ‘religious’ of Butler’s catalogue - which lament the fact that we ‘use God to make our dough up’ and condemn the ‘depraved devil’s heart system that got us all laid down; make us content to play around n’ let God see us get clowned’. But because Arabic is a gender language, ‘things’ can also be masculine (or feminine), so the other possibility is that ‘He’ signifies ‘the Beat’ with a capital B. After all the first shabazz palaces EP (eagles soar, oil flows) starts off with the chorus “the beat will always save us”. In interviews Lazaro has said that he believes in music (“that eternal heart dance beat” as he said in gunbeat falls), and that it will take care of us if we give it its due. A truly religious dedication to music, for him the beat assumes eternal, cosmic, spiritual proportions. This is not only a fruitful and poetic conceptualisation of the matter, but if you’re a music lover and think on how it really can make you feel, you have to conclude that it can only, in fact, be true.

watts, LA

These words indicating where the action takes place immediately bring us back from the world of metaphysical speculation. The southern california hood is one of the most significant places in African American history, the scene of the riots that erupted in 1965 in protest at blatant discrimination suffered by the city’s black population and then again in 1992 when the Rodney King beating (pictured) and the acquittal of the criminally savage policemen sparked off more violence.

Despite the ‘universalist’ nature of these 3 and a half minutes, the video is at a fundamental level grounded in Lazaro’s community, another chapter in the cultural resistance which black music has always played in the story of Amerikkka.

the hero’s journey

Joseph Cambell (see video below) is known for his work on mythology, and his concept of ‘the hero’s journey’. After spending years studying all the major mythological traditions and religions of the globe’s different cultures, he concluded that all point to a basic ‘heroic journey’ that each one of us must take if we are to truly ‘find out’ who we are. All major myths in all societies seem to follow the 3 basic stages in this journey. 1) Departure. The hero heeds the call, leaving the quotidian world of convention and conformity, and sets out on the path. 2) Initiation. The hero is tested, and with the aid of supernatural powers, or divine assistance, is able to overcome the trials. 3) Return. Having conquered his or her demons and scaled the peak of a mountain most don’t even know exists, the hero returns to normal life, and with this new insight and knowledge of self, is able to play his or her part as a responsible human being, helping others. As the camera pans up to a great height, it reinforces the sense that we’re being told a real story, a grand, eternal myth. I think that because there isn't just one 'hero' in this video but three, that's a clear message that the hero can be any one of us. We're all on our own journey, hopefully.

This initial shot of the lady walking ahead seems to reflect the first stage of the journey. She’s strong, beautiful, purposeful, and set on the journey. The dude, like his game, is weak, lame, boring. She pays no attention and continues on her way.

sheep killer, est. 1977

The camera then pans to the right where there’s a re-enactment of the filming of a scene from the 70s classic Killer of Sheep, directed by Charles Burnett. That film as far as I can see doesn’t have a literal connection to the allegorical theme of the video, but on a more subtle level, it is great art born from black America, and it portrays on a human-level the pain of a man condemned to be a have-not simply because he lives in an unjust society. You feel the pain of the film’s protagonist Stan (and his wife), how his soul suffers from having to work in an abattoir and support a family; it's touching and beautiful and sad.

Also it’s a nod to a film that wasn’t appreciated at all at the time it came out but 30 years later is revered as a classic. It’s hard not to see the correlation with Butler’s output, although the widespread acclaim that greeted Black Up is a far cry from the way that Bright Black and even Blowout Comb were ignored by almost everyone when they were released. Still, ever since 95 I’ve maintained that it’ll be a decade or two after it’s released before Butler’s work is given the recognition it deserves. This shit is just way too advanced, after all. The camera then spins upside down and the rest of the video is shot like that. I can’t see anything symbolic here but it looks very very cool, and is a second technical coup by Joseph. The main one being that the entire video is shot in one take.


Then the second 'hero' (played by Ernest Wadell of The Wire, apparently) appears, again, on the journey. He is walking, with some ominous figures on the waiting on the road ahead of him, but then an African mask appears to come down upon him from above. After some time, he turns around and grabs the mask just as it begins to float away. He then runs forward, mask in hand, towards his adversaries. This is the key point in the allegory. Only when you set out on the journey, leaving behind the status quo, will you open yourself to the ‘helping hand’ of the universe. Like Cherrywine said on A Street Gospel, if you want to be an artist, you have to “come outdoors, if you wanna breath more”, or the chorus of Swerve, the reaping of all that is worthwhile (noir not withstanding): “if you talk about it, that’s show. But if you move about it, then it’s a go.” Or the Goethe couplet:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it

But that’s not all. The supernatural power will float down into your life for a certain time, and it won’t wait for you forever. Grab the opportunity and slip through the door before it closes. But once you take that decision, you’ll make it. In the ‘heroic journey’ schema, such divine aid or guidance is often provided by a wise elder (like Virgil in Dante’s Inferno, or Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars) but in the African American context, the mask represents the supernatural mighty unseen force.

Check the first half of the Campbell clip (until 2:37) below for more on masks.

Just as he starts running forwards into the midst of the foe, (your personal demons?/the world?/the business?/personal life?/any of the sacrifices that must be made to pursue your true calling) the chorus kicks in. This is just great directing, what can I say, it’s perfect.

Find out who you are and see it
Find out what you are and free it
Find out who you love and need it
Find out what you can and be it

Find out who you love and be it
Find out what you can and free it
Find out what you love and need it
Find out who you are and see it

You could write a whole essay on each of the lines above, but that’s not the task at hand now. This other writer Graham has already spoken about the chorus, and he also sees it in a mystical self-realisation vein, enlisting Nietzsche’s words. Check out his post, which I link to at the end of this piece.

the struggle

So with this mask he able to fend off about twenty guys that are trying to pull him down, and drag him off course. Even though it seems he is finally pulled down by those two guys and disappears from the frame, he ultimately shakes them off and continues.


The final stage of the hero’s journey is that he has overcome the trials and is able to pass on his precious learning to the next generation. In the video, they are represented on superfast Japanese motorbikes, signifying the future. The message seems to be that even though you made that epic journey, the power that enabled you to do so was never from within you, but was a blessing that you hung on to for a time, before passing the mantle to those that follow. That’s also an allegory on the transience of life.

What’s specific about the ‘return’ stage in Belhaven Meridian is that the kalimba strains of blastit at the homie rayzer’s charm lake plateau bbq july at outpalace pk kick in and the suburban street gives way to a wider, sunnier, less built up locale, which doesn’t really look like America. What this change in sound and place indicate to the viewer is one thing: Africa. Lazaro and Joseph represent the future as African.

(Shabazz Palaces art by Leif Podhajsky)

But that’s not all. As the camera follows the bikes into ‘Africa’, Ish’s Camaro appears in a final display of technical virtuosity and drives off, in formation with the motorcycles, into the sunset. I love this ending, it’s like a really elaborate way of saying “I’ve got the unseen power now- it’s my turn to run with the mask for a few moments on the earth.”

So we sit back and think on the hero’s journey, and finally ask ourselves what it’s all for. What is our path and where should we be heading. Well, for Ish it’s obviously music (and acting?), for me it might be visual art, for you it might be architecture or motherhood or dancing or charitable work or anything under the sun. The key is, if you don’t already know what your journey is towards, then ‘find out’. Find out who you are and free it. Because, as the answer to the question goes, once we know who we are then we can go wherever we want.


Q: What’s the name of that piece by Graham specifically looking at the chorus to this song?
A: It’s here.

Q: You didn’t tell us what “Belhaven Meridian” means…wtf.
A: Good question – any ideas? Lazaro’s cryptic references come from diverse sources (often black history, science fiction, etc.) What does Belhaven Meridian signify? A Meridian is “A circle passing through the celestial poles and the zenith of a given place on the earth's surface” which sounds cool, though my head hurts just thinking about it. I don’t know. Neither can I say why there’s what looks like a rifle poking out of the Camaro at the end…

Q: Why bring up stuff about Watts and Rodney King?
A: Obama being president doesn’t change much. The same story is going on over and over again. What about Troy Davis? It’s on a global scale too. What about the soldier who killed a boy in Afghanistan for fun, and posed smiling for pictures next to the body? He got 7 years; the ‘judge’ told him “I hope and believe you will have a long, happy life."

Q: Can you recommend any Joseph Campbell stuff?
A: I’m new to him. Reading his first book The Hero With a Thousand Faces which lays out his archetypal ‘heroic journey’ but I find it slightly heavy. Surely his later, more popular stuff explains things in a more accessible way. He’s also made lots of videos and audio books, with PBS.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Free New Track & Live UK Spot (best before end: 3/10/11) )

Sub Pop recently signed this funky fresh South African rapper called Spoek Mathombo, and are offering his first EP "put some red on it" (featuring a Shabazz Palaces remix with ish's trademark tasteful handclaps) as a free download for one week only so visit The Fader's website to get yours. The whole LP is class - the originals were produced by this Danish producer called CHLLNGR from my new home Copenhagen.

as part of their uk visit, sp also turned up at the bbc studios for lauren laverne's show on bbc 6 music (a radio station) where they performed live versions of free press and curl and are you... can you... were you.. felt interspersed with banal questions from the host. check it here, noting that if you're outside the uk you can't listen to the 10 minute sp clip but can always just listen to the whole 3 hour show and skip to the 1 hour 40 min mark. it's only available for 6 days longer.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tour Dates autumn/winter 2011 (London TONITE)

shit, the european tour kicked off yesterday in paris and tonite is the plush madame jojo's (pictured) in soho, london ... i'm unable to be there so post your reports as comments on this site and please take some footage, someone with a good camera. if not, describe the atmosphere and how your felt experiencing it. i've a feeling that it's going to be a really special one tonite. it has definitely sold out as guys are asking for tickets in desperate net messages. here are all the dates so far via Songkick (the official website AND subpop's website both dont' have complete listings... (how come they didn't make a tour poster or at least an announcement something?!) and bear in mind that the beirut lebanon gig got pushed back to late october and all the australian dates (oct i think) haven't been posted yet)

Tuesday 27 September 2011
Shabazz Palaces with LA2019 and Paul White
Madame JoJo's
London, UK

Thursday 29 September 2011
Shabazz Palaces with Shabazz Palaces Off Centre and Tim Hoeben
Melkweg Sugar Factory
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Friday 30 September 2011
Shabazz Palaces with Infinite Livez
Festsaal Kreuzberg
Berlin, Germany

Saturday 01 October 2011
Radio Wave Stimul Festival 2011 Shabazz Palaces, Emeralds, Hildur Gudnadottir, The City Kill, and Peaches Dj Set
Prague, Czech Republic

Saturday 15 to Sunday 16 October 2011
Treasure Island Music Festival 2011 Death Cab for Cutie, Empire of the Sun, Cut Copy, Beach House, Friendly Fires, Dizzee Rascal, Chromeo, Explosions In the Sky, Aloe Blacc, The Naked and Famous, Flying Lotus, Warpaint, The Antlers, Battles, Wild Beasts, and 15 more…
San Francisco, CA, US

Monday 17 October 2011
Shabazz Palaces
The Casbah
San Diego, CA, US

Tuesday 18 October 2011
Shabazz Palaces with Theesatisfaction
The Echo
Los Angeles, CA, US

Wednesday 19 October 2011
Shabazz Palaces
Detroit Bar
Costa Mesa, CA, US

Friday 21 October 2011
Shabazz Palaces
The Triple Door
Seattle, WA, US

Thursday 17 November 2011
Shabazz Palaces
Jazz Cafe
London, UK

Friday 18 November 2011
Shabazz Palaces
HMV Institute - The Temple
Birmingham, UK

Saturday 19 November 2011
Shabazz Palaces
The Deaf Institute
Manchester, UK

Tuesday 22 November 2011
Shabazz Palaces with Theesatisfaction
Start The Bus
Bristol, UK

Wednesday 23 November 2011
Shabazz Palaces
TRIX Centrum voor Muziek
Antwerp, Belgium

Thursday 24 November 2011
Le Guess Who? 2011 Panda Bear, Okkervil River, Pinback, Low, Gang Gang Dance, My Brightest Diamond, Fruit Bats, Bill Callahan, Zola Jesus, Akron/Family, Braids, Other Lives, Givers, The Besnard Lakes, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, and 38 more…
Tivoli Oudegracht
Utrecht, Netherlands

Le Guess Who? 2011 Panda Bear, Okkervil River, Pinback, Low, Gang Gang Dance, My Brightest Diamond, Fruit Bats, Bill Callahan, Zola Jesus, Akron/Family, Braids, Other Lives, Givers, The Besnard Lakes, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, and 38 more…
Le Guess Who Festival
Utrecht, Netherlands

Tuesday 29 November 2011
Exodus, Sepultura, Destruction, Dota und die Stadtpiraten, and 1 more…
Munich, Germany

Wednesday 30 November 2011
Shabazz Palaces
Cologne, Germany

Thursday 01 December 2011
Shabazz Palaces
Frannz Club
Berlin, Germany

Friday, September 9, 2011


i just moved to denmark- thanks to all the messages and whatsups from everyone in the past few weeks... i'm in the middle of painting and decorating our new place, unpacking, looking for a job, interviews, and turning to the light as much as possible. havent' had time for many posts but here's a beautiful quote from a recent interview that Dazed n Confused did with Ish:

DD: You’ve been in this business 20 years, but ‘Black Up’ sounds fresh, original and kind of like you made it tomorrow. How do you do that?
Shabazz Palaces: I follow my instinct In every facet of life. I also concoct secret potions that elix my swerve and sparkling my creative health floats me away from the anchor of banality. I also kiss a lot. Long soft adventures where I fall up into a 'rose scented abyss', and there I learn the secrets that I need for the rhythm

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hokuto No Ken

Leon Carr - Urban Utopia (Reinforced Records, 199?)

Monday, August 8, 2011

a 30 minute tv show about s.p.

(above art From a Sudanese folk story-1993, first edition print. Illustrated by Hassan Ali Ahmad courtesy of Soorah)

Someone/thing called Noisey has made this excellent 30 minute documentary combining footage of the Black Up release shows in Seattle with interviews with the band and associates. The live version of Youlogy literally made the hairs stand up on my arms. Their website is really slow and it might take ages for anything to load so keep your swerve in control


SP Live in Alaska (entire show)

I love this video with its funky lo-fi effects. Sound quality could be better though. The way the palaceer and tendai are exploring the outer edges of their continent even if it means they're only playing to a small crowd. This is what sun ra and his arkestra were doing for most of his career. Once ish recommended me his bio "space is the place", by john f szwed, and it opened my eyes to the sheer dedication of true artists who believe and sacrifice everything for their art, as long as they live.

CRITICS DELIGHT I : national print publicationz

So a few years has passed and Ish has released another classic album. The strange thing is, that this time all the critics seems to 'get it' too. That might have happened with Reachin' (a new refutation of time and space) but it definitely didn't with Blowout Comb (at the time anyway) or Bright Black. Of course, Eagles Soar, Oil Flows and The Seven New weren't promoted anyway. I'd gotten so used to the larger media's ability to somehow ignore the output of one of the most original voices in modern music that the tsunami of critical praise over Black Up left me a bit startled (as did listening to the LP itself). Life surprises. In this post I'm sharing some national (USA) print publications' reviews of Black Up:

ROLLING STONE gives it 4 out of 5 stars, and concludes that "we have no choice but to be compelled"

FILTER MAGAZINE gave it 88% and proclaiming that "Shabazz Palaces have truly arrived"

THE L.A. TIMES also gave it 4/5 stars, adding: "Like the Tribe of Shabazz from whom they take their name, Shabazz Palaces is the sound of survival, inured against extreme climate, adamantine as diamond clusters, and levitative as any insect."

THE NEW YORK TIMES breathes a sigh of relief: "Yes, hip-hop still has an audacious progressive fringe. "

"only do what you mean"

Riffin' with Shabazz Palaces from Take the Handle on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

the power of belief

from the talented hand of leif podhajsky.

Monday, August 1, 2011

full of eastern promise.

i grew up watching this. the use of light had a huge effect, still does

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New Interview - with Lowdown Mag

This was funny. PS I've been off the scene for a while I know. It's a combination of being pulverised by the new record and enjoying the feeling (not wanting to write much) and also just being busy with stuff, like moving house every 2 months. Hey: Black Up. What can I say?

Check the interview with Lowdown Mag... wit and wisdom. Most enjoyable.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

straight up big up kexp

features "bop hard" or "pilgrim marketing plan rebuttal take 7" the bonus track only on the digital download version of black up.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


yeah, you

those are 24karat gold specks in the paper... i've just pre-ordered my two vinyls from subpop to get the new patch designed by lazaro himself

that typeface they used for the tracklisting is ridiculous

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

is this the best palaceer lazaro interview ever?

(art by champoyhate)

it might well be. lainna fader and the l.a. record, thank you. finally a journalist pushes the palaceer's metaphysical buttons and delivers some beautiful insights. any idea what those "mental landmarks" could be?? fader read ish's words to this very site and interpreted them as being that lazaro saw the title or light but i think he was talking about the 'palaces of light' an din fact contrary to what everyone says, that isn't even the ep's title; that's to be found on the back in arabic, which i've had translated. it reads "the seven new" which is a very significant concept in the ancient history of arabia and simultaneously, freestyle hip hop as i will write about in future...

read it below or click here to read it in its original larecord website home.

- by Lainna Fader

Ishmael Butler is known by many names, most of which we aren’t meant to ever discover. In another lifetime, he was Butterfly of Digable Planets. Now, he stands at the center of the universe of the mysterious Shabazz Palaces, holding court as Palaceer Lazaro in the first hip-hop group ever signed to Sub Pop. He speaks here about divine inspiration, being in love, and keeping perspective. This interview by Lainna Fader.

Why do you make music?

Palaceer Lazaro: I don’t know. I hope to never know. I think that it’s something that—I’m compelled to do it by things that are deep inside of me. They’re just my instincts. They’re the unrecognizable—or undefinable parts of myself that compel me to make it. I don’t have any reason—the reason is that it happens.

You said you felt compelled to write, that it was instinctual—when did you first recognize those instincts?

I was always predisposed to follow them without recognizing them but there was something that I read about originality, being linked to instinct, and that’s when I started to try to draw the line.

What do you mean by ‘originality’?

Going from your instinct to the final piece without any alteration.

You said that the title ‘Of Light’ was a divine inspiration, and that it came from light. You said you see it in your mind and it looks like everything and nothing. What happened the last time you were divinely inspired?

My kids were around, and I was downstairs doing something, and they were upstairs. They live in different places, and they hadn’t seen each other in a long time. We were all together and they were upstairs and I could hear them—their voices—and I could hear in their voices a love, a familiarity that went way beyond the time they had spent together. It came from a place years-years-years and spaces ago, and when I heard it, I felt it. But I saw my grandmother yesterday too, and it was in her face, in her eyes, too. And in her sounds. But these things are—they are for me to see them. They’re always around. Sometimes you get caught up in the responsibilities of life. Or wanting to watch the game. Just wanting to talk to somebody or missing somebody. Not paying attention to the profound things that are right in front of us. Sometimes you do though—sometimes you are keen and sensitive to it.

How do you remind yourself to not get caught up in the responsibilities of life?

Practice. Drills. You know, repetition. Landmarks—mental ones.

What kind of landmarks?

That’s a personal thing. I don’t wanna talk about that. But that’s how I do it.

How does art connect us to something bigger than ourselves?

When you’re attracted to something it’s seductive, and when you’re being seduced, you’re most aware of yourself. You’re also out of control. It’s like—a lot of discovery and realization and excitement and I think it’s one of the funner things that happen to us.

What’s the relationship between creative input and reaching the divine?

I think that creativity is divine. I mean, cuz good ideas—you can’t really trace them back to any place or thing. For me, it comes from some place, some divinity of some sort.

How is creativity a way for us to help each other?

Yeah—that’s how it even starts. People are looking inside of themselves for something to affect what’s going on inside of themselves or inside of the people around them. It could be a small thing. You could be walking by a newsstand and see a photo and there’s a color in the photo that can make you change how you view life and then yourself and then you can make different moves.

In Shabazz Palaces, you’re Palaceer Lazaro. What purpose do these new personas serve? What is the power in adopting a character?

I have more secret names than known names. The known names—they always come about serendipitously and it’s cool. I know the story behind it, but I don’t think it’s important. Plus I think it’s more fun to not know the story behind things.

What happens when you disconnect someone from their story? What potential is revealed in that space?

I don’t believe that when you tell the backstory that you find out much because it’s a poor representation of what actually goes into something. I don’t know. I think the story is in the product. And it’s infinitely explorable by the people that are looking and listening to it and it’s better to go in that direction. Some people are good at being able to chronicle that, but I’m not one of them. Not many people are good at that—that’s a whole ‘nother talent.

On the new album, at the end of ‘An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum,’ there’s the cautionary lyric “Certain things need not be asked.”

Why do you think people are so interested in knowing your backstory? Why don’t we need to know it?

I don’t think they do—there’s just a lot of places that rely on content and in those places, the content they rely on is not very broad or imaginative and just want the content to fill up whatever they need to fill up. At the end—and at the beginning—of the day, they’re not really interested in it. Maybe for an anecdote over drinks or to wax over knowing some things. It’s just superficial—surface things. Some do, some are interested, but I think once you analyze their interest, you’re like “Nah, that don’t even matter.” [laughs] You know what I’m saying? Your imagination is a much more fertile and vast and dazzling space than having shit narrowed down for you by a megalomaniac. I just think it’s a characteristic of our times that people engage in things as a ritual—a formality—but I don’t know if it’s really substantial or if it lasts. It’s just stuff we do in the moment. And then, it just doesn’t seem to have much depth.

As an artist, how does this affect the way you think about communicating with people through your own music?

Creating shit is still an adventure, kind of a gamble, and you still believe in a lot of good things and potential in order to even be able to feel like doing something today, putting it out, so it’s hope. And fun. And adventure. And wonder. You know? It’s like going out on an adventure—you never know what you’re going to find. It doesn’t predetermine anything in terms of creating music. I definitely don’t study it while I’m doing it. I don’t think about it that much but I’m sure it’s in me—in different kind of ways. It’s hard to say.

You’ve said you’re not interested in looking into the past but what about the future? Octavia Butler said ‘the very act of looking ahead to discern possibilities and offer warnings is an act of hope.’

It’s interesting because she was up here. She lived up here, and died up here. I’ve read every word she’s ever written—but I’ve never read any quotes of hers or anything. But that’s what I’m saying—about trying to pinpoint backstories. Her influence on me is profound—I could never put it into words—but that correlation that you just drew just does it.

In “Swerve… The reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)” the lyrics are “Black is me, black is us, black is free.” How is black free? How can anyone be free?

Some of it is a call to act, as much as it is a declaration. Some of it is something to try to do—to try to figure out, to try to pursue. I do think that people can be free.

What does being free mean to you? What kind of freedom do you hope for the most?

I don’t know if I understand freedom. I just kind of know what the word is supposed to mean, and that’s kind of my point. I don’t know if I believe in the word as an absolute. I haven’t figured out what it’s supposed to mean, but I do know what it means to the world and I used that to shape the way I use it in the music. But freedom? It’s all relative. I think it means having the confidence to pursue your instincts at any quote unquote cost. There’s so much power in belief. And when you do believe, then you can be what you believe and there isn’t any doubt about it. Other people can look at it and think you’re a fuckin’ nut! But you feel it and it is so. There are so many roots to freedom. Even if you just look at physical slaves—emancipation comes in all kinda ways. It’s like—it’s a mixture of things both in the realm that we live in and in realms that we don’t dwell in that get together to emancipate and free somebody. I don’t really know, and you never know how it’s gonna happen, or if it even will. The important thing is that you can kinda help yourself to it. But some people try to help themselves to it but they still get blocked—they still remain confined by things. You never know how things are gonna happen but you can have a courage and a strength and a bravery about life that puts you in the position when these things do fall into line—you can capitalize on the exits and escape routes and fight your way to a little bit more light.

What is the light, and how is it different from the dark?

In the light, things are obvious. Things are very clear. In the dark, it’s just a little less manageable. The same things are there—but you can’t see them so clearly or feel them or express them so clearly.

What do you see for your own future and the world at large?

That’s a big question! I don’t—I don’t see into the future. I do, you know, but I can’t talk about that cuz I won’t be doing any justice to the things that I see. Plus, it’s hard to put into words, the feelings. I don’t know, man! [laughs] What do you see for the world? I’d like to hear you answer that! Do you know any people who are dead, and they’re kinda too young to be dead? Well, if you think about what they would feel about living right now, then you’ll have another perspective on things. If you can’t understand what the gift of it is, then maybe you don’t deserve it. And I want it. And I want to be able to recognize the gift of life. So I just do! So when it feels like shit’s fucked up and not going the way I want it to go, then I recognize that as a ludicrous approach and just get out as quick as possible and move on to some work—making something, helping somebody, looking at somebody elses’ work—things that affirm life. The easiest shit to find—and they’re everywhere. And plus, you never know what tomorrow’s gonna bring. You just gotta work on things you can do, today. Cuz when you do … it’s result oriented—always. Something’s gonna happen when you make a move. That’s the way things work. I think everythings alright. The world is definitely nuts, you know what I mean? There’s a lot of bad in it cuz we set the tables for ourselves so that shit that’s gonna happen as a result of what we been doing is not gonna be cool but at the same time I think a lot of cool things are gonna happen too. And when things are just happening and they’re inevitable and they’re real you kinda have to look at them and accept them for what they are instead of just dwelling on how bad they are or why. Because tomorrow is the only thing that you can really impact.

If you didn’t have love, would you be so willing to trust the universe?

Yeah. If you’ve ever had it, then you know. You know the possibility that you could again. Love is—it makes things feel a lot brighter, no matter what. It’s hard still, but advice from someone that’s other than you: the thing is, you just have to believe. And beliving in things takes practice and a lot of explaining to yourself. Spending time with yourself and figuring out that it’s not about dwelling on what you don’t have, or what isn’t there. Cuz a lot of times when you do that, you set up barriers to ever having it again anyway. You know what I’m saying? You just gotta have courage. Bravery about believing in life. It sounds cliché, but when you really get to the bare bones of the real meanings of those things, it’s pretty bright.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Summer 2011 Tour Dates

(Above: The Final Touch by Janne Parviainen)

6/9: Los Angeles CA
@ Troubadour:

6/10: San Francisco CA
@ Brick & Mortar Music Hall:

6/28: Seattle WA
@ Easy Street Records - “Black Up” Album Release In-Store Performance -

6/30: Seattle WA
@ Neumos:

7/1: Seattle WA
@ Neumos:

7/15: Sitka AK
Sitka, Alaska - Home Skillet Festival

7/17: Chicago IL
@ Pitchfork Music Festival:

7/23: Dallas, TX @ Gorilla Vs Bear Festival

9/3: Seattle WA
@ Bumbershoot Festival -

9/11: Portland OR
@ Music Fest North West - Roseland Ballroom -

9/24: Beirut, Lebanon
@ Beirut Indie Sessions Music Festival


July 16: Halifax, NS, Canada Halifax Jazz Festival
June 18: Syracuse, NY - Westcott Theater
June 19 (Sunday): Toronto, ON, Canada - NXNE (w/ The Pharcyde), Yonge-Dundas Square, (free!)

Pitchfork redeem themselves and O extrapolates a mixtape from Palaceer Lazaro of eleven years ago.

(Above art by Dumb Eyes. The Arabic Writing is the name of Shabazz Palaces first EP which everyone thinks is self-titled. But actually it's Eagles Soar, Oil Flows which is what the Arabic words mean.)

I hereby forgive pitchfork approximately 5 years of their prior transgressions due to their new piece on Ish's musical faves. They have this series called "5, 10, 15, 20" where they get an artist to talk about what they were listening to at 5 yearly intervals up to the present. You can read the article by clicking:

5-10-15-20: Shabazz Palaces (Pitchfork)

But don't click it yet. I just want to say that this piece was stupendous and tremendous. It also reminded me of all the good music I've been introduced to through Ish. So I checked out our old email exchange from 2000 where we talked serious shop for a few letters, exchanging our current musical input. Here's a list of all his mentions interspersed with some links to the music concerned. OK so now you can go and read the Pitchfork piece.

* * *

Good eh? Shows the wisdom in controlling your child's TV watching time. OK now check out more of what the Palaceer was digging aged 30, having just recorded The Ten Commercial (aka Ishmael Since 1999).

Duke Ellington - Sentimental Mood

Sun Ra - We Travel the Spaceways LP, Nubians of Plutonia LP (he also recommended the biography by Szwed, which I subsequently read. Very inspiring to see Sun Ra's singular vision and unrelenting dedication to his music despite being too far ahead of his time for most people to get it.)

Sly and the Family Stone - Small Talk LP (he was digging Freddie Stone's guitar playing)

Curtis Mayfield - Live! at the Bitter End LP (said how Jimi and Bob were both influenced by him)

Bob Marley - Bad Card, Zimbabwe

Wayne/wendy Carlos's - Score to Clockwork Orange LP

Bjork - Homogenic LP (especially "unravel", "all is full of love", "hunter")

Blur - Blur LP (for tracks "death of a party", "strange news from another star", "essex dogs)
Blur - 13 LP (especially track: Trimm Tab, mentioned their great drummer)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Show Review: Santos Party House, NYC, 12 May 2011 (with Thee Satisfaction)

A guest review from the pen of Crooklynite artist Y. Misdaq aka Yoshi!! (photos by Eric Phipps):

This gig was an insult to anyone who wanted to hear something familiar. It was a slap in the face for anyone who wanted to be comforted with warm boredom. Ish’s lyrics may not have completely burst through the heavy bass of the speakers that line the walls of Santos Party House, but enough shiny nuggets passed through the void to assure familiar fans that the inspirational-heart, beating deep inside the million-styles-per-hour is still thriving-vibrant on the new LP. What more to say? It was an onslaught, with pleasure (pleasure, pleasure, pleasure).

It’s difficult to describe how impressive it is to see a man in such control of his throne. Ish stands behind a desk that was not there during the warm up acts moments before; a desk packed to the brim with electronic devices that are somehow all linked together. And this is not impressive in its own right. I have played a gig at Santos before with a troupe of electronica musicians who had almost as much gear. But to hear such finely crafted vocals linked up with those machines, those beats, those trillion-styles-per-hour, and to hear those beats and those flows linked up so nicely with the percussion, and to have ALL those elements the subject of momentary filters and effects that seem to rise from the kinetic of the moment, of the second... It is in line and fitting with what the 11th century philosopher Al-Ghazali said

In the [spiritual] worlds of Power & Royalty, things do not have the fixity we associate with rocks, mountains, tables etc. Rather, reality moves rapidly, shifting from moment to moment. Each single moment brings a new order of being on whose face is written an entirely new meaning... "Every moment He manifests himself in yet another (wondrous) way." [Qur'an, 55:29]

At the start of the show Ish would place his hand over a glowing red-light that created effects in relation to where he moved it. The sound was incredible, and embedded perfectly within the beat, both in terms of its timbre, texture and even its volume. And of course, it made him look like Ryu from Street Fighter 2 with a thunderball of sound emanating from within the palm of his hand. The vicious, merciless snares ripped through the air like jets, and yet they were kept under the control of the man behind the desk, like wild dogs at the total command of a master. It makes one respect the concept of hard work, the kind of work I know it must have taken to craft and polish such near-flawless execution. In this respect, gig is such a pathetic word, I have never much cared for it before. but here it seems even more insulting. Perhaps for some tired ageing rockers, gig is okay, but this performance should not be called a gig. It should be called Ice Ageless. Fire changes. A Returning. A Performance.

Such mastery makes one inspired and at the same time, completely intimidated (this is speaking as a musician with some basic understanding of shows, venues, electronic setups etc. I should like to think for other listeners, perhaps there exists only sheer escapism, with zero intimidation. This would make sense). All in all, between the two performers and the audience, it was a tri-symbiotic relationship of wild osmosis bordering on telepathy and resulting in black’d up manhood, in breathing bodies that are made to feel refreshed. Ready to run back out into the world with their own idea, fuel’d.

The beautifully choreographed moves of Ish and Tendai served as one such informant of that aforementioned heart beneath the music, they seemed to say, ‘if the music is too much for you, which we understand it might be, then we still want you to be involved on as many other levels as possible’. And so, periodically, despite their distance from each other, they would spin in perfect harmony, or clap hands on a snare slap, always repeated three or four times, because the beat always saves, and these beats are all about repetition of thunder, and power. Being saved by thunder feels great; and the hand-claps set to rhythm did indeed keep the audience involved. Everybody was feeling it, despite the multitudinous ways in which they showed it. There were numerous hip-hop heads, hoodied and all, who seemed too inhibited to do anything other than cooly bop from left to right (reacting as if this were a grimy Wu-Tang production from ’93!) and yet the very fact that they were bopping, and doing so non-stop throughout the entire show spoke of something very significant. Countless young (incredibly young) and curious people were there. Many young African-Americans. One could sense from their hip-clothes and earnest expressions that they were expecting something special, awaiting something to believe in. It sounds incredibly corny, and who knows if they found it, but for absolute sure, everybody was as blown away as I. Indeed, halfway through the set, some people, including myself, were no longer dancing like maniacs, but stunned and standing still, mouths hanging open. This happens when you are beaten over the head with the future.

Afterwards Ish came straight back out and we spoke for a very few nice moments. He sent a whatsup to brother O of this very blog. Most memorable however was the sheer enthusiasm. It had been 5 years since Ish had graciously invited brother O and I backstage at the Jazz Café in London where we spoke for a good hour or so about all new things under the sun. At that time, the digables were doing a reunion tour, and Ish still looked like very much like Butterfly. Things were awaiting then, time was building. This year, especially with his shaved-Palaceer head, Ish definitely looked much less Butterfly and much more the seasoned music veteran. And this year, along with last, when the world seems to be imploding, this music feels to be absolutely on point. Ish’s age, however, is the counterpoint of what so many remarked on after the show, to see someone in their 40s with such a commanding presence, radiating such pure youthful energy and power. It was part of what made the performance so surreal. What other words can one use but Hip-Hop? And Elemental? And Spirit? And indeed, this was what I found most remarkable about my brief exchange after the show.

At the side of the stage, which as I said, I know well, the audience are basically standing at eye-level with the feet of the performers. And there are black bars separating you. When he had come back out, Ish asked me, with the smile and enthusiasm that I recognize from an artist who knows he has just done a really good gig, ‘what did you think?’ And as I tried to convey, in blunted words that probably made no sense, what I felt, I saw a radiating smiling face, full of sweat, that was right next to my own, through the black bars. I do not know if he was literally lying down on the floor of the stage, or kneeling down, either way it seemed so very child-like. I was facing a pure, radiant smile of happiness and enthusiasm. And this face is the answer to the chorus of the song ‘Find out’. When an artist is expressing his art, and doing it to his perfection, the answer is this kind of happiness. This look of Life.

Ish’s grin, as I stumbled to get the right words out, was that of pure youth, belying age, experience, and belying what we think of as time. It finally spoke, in a categorical way, without words, of the need for us all to do what we love. Evoking, or kindling in all of us willing to listen, our natural ability to remain ageless. I frequent art modern exhibits in Chelsea from time to time, and I don’t know why I do because it is all so affected compared to this. There is no contemporary art I have come across as powerful and inspirational as this music. Find out what you are and free it.