Friday, April 29, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Weekly Jazzoetry

The Last Poets - Jazzoetry (form the LP Jazzoetry, 1976)

Check out the Milkcrate Breaks website which mentions the influence of Last Poets on Ish's work with Digable. Of course it continues big time with SP; I'll write more about that soon.

Stuff (news)

Good news, great news, and ugly news.

Shabazz Palaces are playing in New Orleans this saturday opening up for Mos Def, Booker T, and a host of other cats playing at the Howling Wolf: More details here.

SP will provide the score to this upcoming documentary called Tough Bond about village children surviving in the slums of Kenya. Check out the trailer above and go to the film's website to learn more. Released summer of 2011 aka the summer of Shabazz.

And the bad news: according to Sub Pop's website, Black Up release date has been pushed back buy a whole month. Now it's coming out on June 28th! I'm sure they have their reasons but still... damn.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Some Thoughts on An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum (part I of II)

The only thing we know about the LP, beyond the release date and tracklisting, is this song. It became a sensation on the web immediately and everyone is gushin over it, calling it spacey etc. but what is it about? To me it’s one of the more cryptic of Lazaro’s productions but, here goes.

An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum - lyrics


Pin-ups in a shady purpose
All that diamond dust,
Blowin’ up your hopes?
Flamboyant obstacles, or deals made to cope?
???? ???? ???? ????
Shouts at all these soft niggas,
Ideas in recline
Rise of the lost
Yeah yeah
Yeah yeah
No, yeah
Yeah yeah
Yeah yeah

[first verse]

Here we stand
Slaves to networks’ master plans
Swag’s the brand, open a can
Chains off, still y’all never ran.
“I brag, I boast, I kill, I coast,
I toast to cake and crime.”
Doing the most
A stronger dose
A king at leisure time
So erase your mind (?)
Dough is laced, fantasticize
Gang signs point to hang ‘em high
“Who, swindle? Oh yeah, that’s my guy”
The forecast: heat with chance to blast
Hustle dough sure don’t seem fast
My kiss, my list, my dreams, my stash
Since certain things need not be asked

[second verse]

Are you.
You think I’m selfish
Exist only to wish on stars
Lay in wait n’ cut the bars down then go ice the guards
Touch the hood (?) n’ go kiss gran n’ catch a box of food
Play that blade n’ feel that sunlight till you’re in the mood

But who you think you are?
Who you think you are?
Who you think YOU are?
Who you think who you are?
Who you think who you are?

[thanx to Anonymous for correcting these transcriptions... see comments below]

Let’s start by acknowledging the track’s most startling feature: that disturbing sample. One of my friends can’t really even listen to this because it freaks him out! It’s disturbing for a reason (or two), though. This is a song about self-discovery. That’s a scary proposition for most of us. We’ve become used to what we know and think we are, and going deeper into the self elicits terror. But the sample is also apt because the reason for all the world’s problems is that people are not asking the question that this song wants us to each ask of ourselves. Who am I? That has resulted in a terrifying reality and future. We’re afraid of finding out who we are but in fact we should be afraid of staying the same and maintaining the status quo.
Ultimately, and despite the darkness of this track, it is optimistic. By virtue of the fact that it encourages us to go in this direction it shows the artist’s belief that we are basically good, even divine. I say divine because of the word “infinitum” in the title “An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum”. ‘Infinitum’ is the latin root for infinity. ‘Host’ is an archaic term for a multitude, a throng, a legion. Until the modern age, the vast host of humanity has professed infinity, which is to say has believed in eternity. That this existence is part of a much older and greater story. Calling this song an ‘echo’ acknowledges that we live in different times, but nevertheless we’re being urged to follow the same advice carved in stone above the portal to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi: Know thyself.

(Above: Ruins of the Delphic Oracle)

“Pin-ups in a shady purpose” This line gives the impression of people wanting things which aren’t what they seem, or have a sinister purpose lurking behind. Advertising? “All that diamond dust, blowing up your hopes” I love this line. Beyond the obvious cocaine reference, it recalls the consumerist stupor that we find ourselves in. Like some giant just sprinkled this magic dust on us all and hey presto we forgot about deeper issues, but instead are often inflated with vain, false hopes. What is it that we want? New iphone, big house, ridiculous car, girl like that one in that video, ice, drugs to escape, … what are these things? If you’re after knowledge of self, they’re just ‘flamboyant obstacles’. Even worse, and if we’re more truthful, they’re “deals made to cope” with the false selves that the larger society has convinced us is us. A most vicious circle. Creativity has been put on the back burner for most of us. That beautiful intuitive alive child we once were is buried under years of learning what to be, our innate creativity is “in recline”, a word which contrasts with what/who has “risen”: the lost. And he’s not pointing figures in an us-and-them type way. We need to start with the man in the mirror. We need to find that which has been lost. That’s been a key theme of Shabazz Palaces. “Find out who you are and free it”, and the recent song which is titled “Lost foundling”.

The first few lines of the first verse are self-explanatory. I especially like “dope in a can”, meaning how dopeness which is free (in both senses) and natural has become commodified and can now be bought in a handy container for your convenience.

“Chains off, still y’all never ran” is a vivid picture and beyond the obvious slavery reference which directs it at certain African Americans, it can be taken in a more general sense by all people. For many of us, the modern world gives us freedoms that our ancestors, toiling away in their lifelong jobs, never had. But what are we doing with all this freedom? The thug mentality then articulates, saying how “I brag, I boast, I kill, I coast, I toast to cake and crime.” ‘Cake’ I assume indicates luxury in Ish’s lexicon; it appears elsewhere in SP music.

“Doing the most, a stronger dose” just captures the extreme nature of our situation, the lengths we go to for our slice of cake. The next line is one of the song’s most memorable to me: “A king at leisure time”. The previous line about ‘chains off’ make you think of slaves, which we have all become to some extent and what is the opposite of a slave? That’s the whole point of this dilemma we’re in now. This new slavery isn’t about forcing us to do back-breaking work but it’s about sucking the life out of us by relentlessly feeding what Leonard Cohen memorably described as our ‘swollen appetites’. And I’m sure if we’re honest with ourselves we can all agree, no matter how aware or noble our intentions are, that we’re both “products and victims, to perpetuate this sickness” (that line’s from Belhaven Meridian by the way). You slave away at a job you don’t enjoy… what’s the reward? Well at leisure time you’re a king. You can sit on your couch in your castle, in front of a huge plasma tv with hundreds of channels at your fingertips, the web, every device you can imagine they’ll sell you if they can. Even the choice of the phrase “leisure time” is sharp- a term and concept invented by marketing men.

I’m lost with the rest of the verse, but “gang signs point to hang ‘em high” is interesting. At first it made me think of gang’s killing each other echoing lynchings by whites in the past. But also the phrase ‘hang ‘em high’ is short for “Hang ‘em high and leave ‘em dry” which is a sailing phrase meaning when a ship get’s stranded on dry land with no hope for recovery. With either reading, it’s a regret-filled observation on what is going on.

The last two lines show that with all these distractions, (‘my kiss’ = my lust/emotional wants; ‘my list’ = all that stuff I want; 'my dreams' = my vain hopes; ‘my stash’ = drugs, or escape/avoidance/denial mechanisms) it becomes possible to not even ask certain questions… namely:

Who am I?

To be continued….

PS: I realise that I’m making it sound a lot more ‘preachy’ than it is. This is a limitation with this kind of rational line by line ‘interpretation’ exercise/experiment. The great thing about it is that it’s music, so listen and say your feelings. Not just the lines where I couldn’t understand what he said, but also my readings might be totally different from others, and I’d like to know different ways of understanding this. Help.
PPS: Like the beat, the song lightens up towards the end so have no fear, check out part two of this post coming soon.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tour Dates spring/summer 2011

Here's a provisional list of tour dates. Obviously this is a very early list and will probably grow extensively:

Saturday, April 30, 2011: Howlin Wolf Jazz Fest, New Orleans
Wednesday, May 11, 2011: Kung Fu Necktie, Philadelphia PA (21 & Up)
Thursday, May 12: Santo's Party House, New York NY (18 & Up)
Thursday, June 30, 2011: Neumos, Seattle WA
Friday, July 1, 2011: Neumos, Seattle WA
Sunday, July 17, 2011: Pitchfork Music Festival, Chicago IL

The two back to back nights at Neumos in Seattle are billed as the album launch party... at first that puzzled me since the album would have already been out for a month by then. But thinking about it, it sort of makes sense. I think that as with the previous releases, when they first come out they'll just be too much for people to digest immediately. Like all classic albums, it'll arrive as a fully self-contained universe that smashes our preconceptions about what hip hop, music and art can do. It'll take a while for people to catch on to it. So rather than having the album launch when it's actually, which would result in a room full of mostly bewildered, shell-shocked listeners, they pushed it back a month to give us a chance... that's my theory anyway. As for the album itself, does it not seem like May 31st seems years away and time is even slowing down as the release date looms? Black up!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Song of the Week

D'eon - Kill a Man With a Joystick in Your Hand (Palinopsia EP, 2010, Hippos in Tanks Records)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New Song- Lost Foundling

New sounds from the palace. The white horse delivers the Lost Foundling via the Sub Pop Record Day Sampler CD (pictured above, free, very limited edition, I emailed Bekah at Sub Pop to send me one- I know she's going to come through!!) and you can listen to it here:

Shabazz Palaces - Lost Foundling

Shabazz Palaces - Lost Foundling by subpop

Remember this is not going to be on the upcoming LP so it's an exclusive to the sampler, which also comes with card for each of the artists. Thanks to Brian (see comment below) who has uploaded the card, you can see the fron tand back below:

Like all Shabazz tracks that I haven't had a few months to digest, all I can say now is that I'm disorientated in the best possible way. It seems like the whole approach sonically of SP is to break you down, to shatter the image we've all built up of what hip hop should sound like, and then drag you into its wormhole and just give you some other dimensional head nod shit to get lost in. But with time, it has the overall effect of waking you up. That's what I'd say. If you want to be awake then listen to a lot of Shabazz Palaces.

I'm glad we're getting so many followers these days. Please feel free to comment on whatever you feel, this site is supposed to be a discussion forum too. What do you think of the new jam? What do you love about this music? Did you have any personal 'magic' moments with it? I remain, Brother O.


This is the only footage I've ever seen of Graffiti that also has Jeru on it. He rips it up, and Doodlebug also comes off powerfully here too. Live at the Apollo, summer of 95! They went out in to the field, and rapped to these people...

Digable Planets f/ Jeru the Damaja - Graffiti (Noise) (Live at the Apollo, June 22nd 1995)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Weekly Song Time

I was recently interviewed about this blog for a Shabazz Palaces feature in City Arts magazine and through the writer Jonathan Zwickel found out that Ish was listening to nothing but P-Funk (and Native Tongues) when making the Digable Planets record. So what's Bernie Worrel up to now? He's still in the zone: Check out his intro to this smooth track with Laswell on bass.

Method of Defiance - Cosmic Slop (Nihon tour, live in Japan, 2009)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Khalil Joseph & Palaceer Lazaro work together again

"You Ever been swallowed by the light?"

Thanks to Yoshi for sending me this 'exclusive'... The Palaceer in an uncredited appearance for a new Vans viral piece. Cool, beautifully shot, and thought-provoking. Uncredited is apt since he plays a kind of mysterious godfather figure overseeing what the yoots are up to but looking down from above on the drama: watching, interrogating, pushing it. Whispered vords from the recent for-charity non-LP track Star Studded. Hoping sincerely that I'm not just imagining when I recall Ish saying that he and Joseph were working on a longer Shabazz Palaces film for the future, or that if it was a vague plan then it has come/is coming to fruition. Please. Let it be.

3 became clear after rewatching:
one - telephones are significant. phone lines, antique phones
two - trees are amazing, and green
three - definitely going to buy a pair of vans. i had already planned to get some white ones and customise them when back in london, but even if i hadn't this sold me. ads never work like that on me but this one is just the sickest

Sunday, April 3, 2011

SXSW 2011: reviews, photos, & footage

I've been in Denmark recently, it's been good for the soul. SXSW: All I can say is that I wish I was there. Funnily enough Gorilla vs Bear picked SP and Grimes as highlights and Grimes is my top new artist, check the music of the week entry recently to hear her track Devon. I'm going to see her live next thursday when she comes to play my hometown Brighton for the Great Escape Festival (Brighton's version of SXSW). But SXSW. I will be there one day, and hear 100 sph live. So here are some nice polaroids from GvsB by David Bartholow.

Classic shot below is by Joey Maloney for LA Times:

Finally some nice shots of SP and TheeSat by Diavid Lichterman.

Write ups flowed in abundance. Here are two from the LA Times and Pitchfork respectively. Rolling Stone said: "Ex-Digable Planet does impossibly funky, dubby avant-rap with shakers, kalimbas, ideas without boundaries. Truly a unique and wonderful mix that deserves to be one of sxsw 2010's breakout stars. Get Googling!"

Video too thanks to Trinity stardust blog:

Gunbeat Falls:

Hottabatch (Do it for my people):

new sneaks to rise jews the trap is

rhyme of the week (it's a london ting)

The Bug f/ Killa P & Flowdan - Skeng (off London Zoo LP, 2008, Ninja Tune Records)

shot inn aface make you send for de nurse
doctor can't fix you send for de hearse