Friday, December 21, 2012

photography hijinx

a very good photographer chase jarvis has a monthly 'internet tv talk-show/photography thing' that broadcasts out of his blog. apparently it's watched in over 100 countries but is out of seattle. they also feature guest artists: this episode ish is in the house first answering boring questions but then getting his photo taken by a camera the size of a truck using a type of photographic technique know only to modern day alchemist ian ruhter. we actually see the entire process from start to end product (it's about an hour long) as the do a portrait using some kind of process using silver. i do not pretend to understand the arcane black magick his technique draws its powers from, but as you can see from the end result (and ruhter's other work) it's wicked. when i have time i'm going to check out some of the other episodes, which look really useful and inspirational for 'creatives'. action begins at 1hour 32 minutes.

Video streaming by Ustream

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

tendai interview

thanx to okay africa. it's interesting to hear a less damning view of mugabe than what we usually hear in the western press. if you haven't already checked out tendai's mixtape you really need to do yourself a favour and press the play button below asap. tendai aka baba maraire aka fly guy dai breaks it down track by track here. at the moment, my favourite track is WhatUlukn@ (its at 18:00) and reading his description of it i love it even more cos i remember racism in school and know its rawness first-hand. interesting too is the inclusion of african music from afar as senegal, algeria, and of course zimbabwe.

Chimurenga Renaissance "Pungwe" Mix-Tape feat. Chief Boima

also for those of you in southafrica the man himself is playing with digable planet's old dj king britt (!) on saturday:


Sunday, December 2, 2012

toyin odutola

"ishmael" by toyin odutola. 2011. pen. ink and marker. ish looks the alien he may well be: "the ship i came here on vanished."

Sunday, November 25, 2012

MMJ x SP footage

wow this is BIG - finally, some very high quality footage of MMJ and Shabazz bringin down the greek theatre of berkeley california. after they sort out ish's mic he lets rip his verse from "home" by jake one, and shabazz blacks up the area. everyone was feeling this, and the crowd was immense. courtesy of frontline tv:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

new radio interview

yes i am sorry for being awol of late, ishmaelites... i've been sick, but on the way back now. still meaning to write up my evening with shabazz palaces when they came here to copenhagen a couple weeks ago, but for now here's an interview with liverpool student radio which is pretty cool

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Winter 2012-13 Tour Dates

What?!!? Another batch of tour dates?! Yes, the palaceers are birds (royal falcons) who like to fly often and far. By the end of this tour they'll have played around 80 dates in the past year... that's a quarter of the year  on the road. Damn. By now SP has overtaken Digable Planets as the music that Ish has toured the most. 

The tour in the new year is with The Helio Sequence, their labelmates at Sub Pop Records. Ish has been a fan of this duo for ages. In 2003 when the first interview for his then-new Cherrywine project surfaced, one question was what he was listening to. The answer introduced me to 3 great musicians: Miles Davis (I went out and bought Live:Evil), Cody Chessnut (Ish was onto him before he blew up and introduced him to The Roots, resulting in their hit cover of his song The Seed), and The Helio Sequence, who'd recently been signed to Sub Pop. I embed their songs below. Their new LP Negotiations has just come out, and while I prefer their earlier stuff, it's impressive music, impeccably produced, that touches. Ish listens to a lot of this kind of stuff, ('guitar based, electronicish wall-of-sound rock') and plays the guitar so I wonder if he makes this kind of music himself. As he said recently, about 90% of the songs he makes are never released, so (sigh)... but imagine his 'hiphop' take on that sound... pfff forget it! As some wise men once said, Headz aint ready for the shit we got. Headz aint ready, I swear they're not.

11-01 Rejkavik, Iceland - Airwaves Festival *
11-02 Copenhagen, Denmark - Loppen *
11-04 Hamburg, Germany - Kampnagel K2 *
11-05 Kortrijk, Belgium - De Kreun *
11-06 Clermont-Ferrand, France - La Cooperative de Mai *
11-07 Lorient, France - Festival Les Indisciplines *
11-09 Nimes, France - Paloma *
11-10 Fribourg, Switzerland - Fri-Son *
11-11 Zurich, Switzerland - Rote Fabrik *
11-12 Munich, Germany - Hansa 39 *
11-13 Berlin, Germany - Festsaal Kreuzberg *
11-15 Liverpool, England - Kazimier *
11-16 Dublin, Ireland - Twisted Pepper *
12-28 Seattle, WA - Neptune Theatre *
01-18 Birmingham, AL - Bottle Tree ^
01-19 Atlanta, GA - Terminal West ^
01-20 Pensacola, FL - Vinyl Music Hall ^
01-22 St. Augustine, FL - Cafe Eleven ^
01-24 St. Petersburg, FL - State Theater ^
01-25 Orlando, FL - The Social ^
01-26 Tallahassee, FL - Club Downunder ^
01-27 Asheville, NC - Orange Peel ^
01-28 Nashville, TN - Mercy Lounge ^
01-29 Louisville, KY - Zanzabar ^
01-30 Saint Louis, MO - Firebird ^
01-31 Bloomington, IN - Bishop Bar ^

02-01 Chicago, IL - The Shrine

* with THEESatisfaction
^ with the Helio Sequence

Thursday, November 1, 2012

tour & iceland airwaves show - listen live NOW

Shabazz Palaces & THEESatisfaction European Tour November 2012 kicks off in about one minute from rejkavic, iceland. the entire set is about to be broadcast live on kexp so click here and listen to it. it was supposed to start at 1130 PST (1830 GMT) but appears to be delayed by 30 minutes... but it is literally starting right now so here we go

Sunday, October 28, 2012

major weight

production i believe is by tendai. this is one heavy heavy tune which gets deeper and more interesting as it goes on.

Friday, October 19, 2012


dxt remixing a bootsy cover of jimi in laswell's refracted light. yes...

"dxt - if 666 was '96" (from the compilation lp altered beats: assassin knowledges of the remanipulated. axiom records, 1996)

gil scott-heron radio doc

bbc radio are airing a radio documentary about gil scott-heron which features shabazz palaces, krs-one, and chuck d and others speaking about the great man. on sunday. more info here. for those of you not in the european union you will not be able to listen to it via bbc's website or later via iplayer (unless you have vpn) but i plan on recording it and posting it so its all good. in other good news, 2 weeks till shabazz come to copenhagen...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

digable on soultrain in ninety-five

soultrain's bizarre format of getting acts to play live but then playing the recorded version over the top. the host's fearless banality. ladybug's answer to her question signalling the groups days were up. the really pretty spectacular dancing. interesting that jettin apparently was going to be the single, as this was originally aired in march ninety-five, well before blowout's autumn release.

french video interview

thanx arsalan

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

new video interview

thanks to longhorn hiphop from texas. great insights await >

chimurenga renaissance f/ the palaceer

produced by tendai. rap by tendai n ish. yes this is track two off the new mixtape posted about below. enjoy!

Monday, October 1, 2012

tendai solo MIXTAPE

tendai has come through with this dope mixtape as he lets his skills as producer and rhymesayer shine. includes the should-be-transnational-hit 'boom' we got this past spring. diverse styles take cues from shona, rai, the chronic, and more 100% hiphop chimurenga renaissance style. jewels aplenty, including a verse from ish on the second track. free download as wav. enjoy >

Chimurenga Renaissance "Pungwe" Mix-Tape feat. Chief Boima

Monday, September 24, 2012

rumour has it..

.... word has reached me that a shabazz palaces mixtape is gonna be released some day very soon... what??!!! don't want to believe it yet in case it's a mirage... but damn i hope it does...!


a lil somethin somethin. ish speaks on the historic tour that him and tendai have been on with my morning jacket.

ish on the shabazz-my morning jacket shows by trent moorman for the stranger

or read text only below:

Ish on the Shabazz - My Morning Jacket Shows

Posted by on Fri, Sep 7, 2012 at 11:56 AM

Shabazz Palaces opens for My Morning Jacket tonight at Marymoor Park. A unique and charged pairing of preeminent bands. On August 19th, they did a show together at New York’s Williamsburg Park. Shabazz’s Palaceer Lazaro (Ishmael Butler) spoke moments ago about the proceedings.
 Are you a MMJ fan? How did these Shabazz and MMJ shows come about?
Ish: Yes. I know and like their music. I got into it seven or eight years ago. They seem like they know and like our music as well. We met them when we did that show in New York and they talked about listening to Black Up. I think we have a mutual sensibility and appreciation. As far as teaming with them to have us open up, I think it was their idea to give us a look and help give us exposure to some people that wouldn’t ordinarily see us. They kinda big bro’d us up, looking out for us, and wanted to hang out and chill. They’re of that size and stature where they can do what they want, and I think this was just something they wanted to do. It’s really cool of them to think of us in that way. The show we did with them in New York was awesome. They run an amazing set up. Their show is off the hook, their production, every aspect. It’s good to see that level of fun and enjoyment mixed with the professionalism. It’s inspiring. A+.

They play 18 minute songs live.
Oh yeah. They’ll get on a riff, and carry it. That’s the part I dig the most. Of course they have good song structure, but sometimes they take off on a riff, and that shit is just nasty. Dude picks up the Flying V! And starts shaking it up. It’s something to see.

What about a My Morning Palaces Collabo Album?
If they’re up for doing some collaborations, we’d definitely do it. I spoke to Jim James a little bit, and he has a rig with him on the tour. If something happens, I’m with it. I got a lot of respect for those guys. After seeing them live, it put the icing on top. They’re serious. You never know. I don’t want to say anything though, like that it's definitely happening. No tabloid shit [laughs]. Nothing's been confirmed. But if it’s possible, it would be cool.

barksdale corners video

a not-really-official-but-approved video for 'barksdale corners', although it's labelled something else. really intoxicating, psychedelic meditation on blackness by christian j peterson, the dude who designs most of shabazz palaces' visual output including album art. barksdale corners is a subliminal masterpiece, whose lyrics dance deeply and cinematically.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

(unmissable) interview

utah's city weekly magazine just published this fantastic interview with ish by austen diamond. it gives us as great a glimpse into his creative process as we've gotten so far and he himself also lays out why his poetry has the impressionistic, collage quality that has mesmerised listeners for the last twenty years. click here to read it in its original home or read below for the cut n pasted words.

Shabazz Palaces

Ishmael Butler: All questions, no answers

Some influences: Alain LeRoy Locke, Nikki Giovanni, James Baldwin, Last Poets

By Austen Diamond

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass,” wrote Anton Chekhov.

Although removed by more than 100 years, Ishmael Butler (aka Palaceer Lazaro) epitomizes the Russian existential writer’s show-don’t-tell style—the essence of this quote—and his disregard for traditional story structure. Chekhov also believed that what is obligatory of an artist is not to provide answers, but to properly pose questions.

In this vein, Butler, the rhyming half of Seattle’s Shabazz Palaces, pushes the boundaries of storytelling in hip-hop. First, there was the band members’ anonymity—virtually unheard of within a genre of celebrity names—during the first two EP releases, allowing merit alone to gain notoriety without relying on the successes of Butler’s previous group, Digable Planets.
Butler also offers mysterious, semi-cryptic titles, like “An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum” and “Endeavors for Never (The Last Time We Spoke You Said You Were not Here. I Saw You Though.)” from the critically acclaimed 2011 release Black Up.

Each song shows its own “glint of light on broken glass” in a smattering of vignettes written seemingly as stream of consciousness. Butler would argue that these several-lines-long scenes sewn together are the most realistic approach to penning a narrative.

“A film or book is a nonrealistic view of life,” says Butler, who then describes a fictional scenario of a couple cyclically falling in and out of love. “It seems abstract [as it’s happening]. You can pick out those parts and then, later, put it in line [for a story]. But that’s not the way life goes; it’s not the way you hear, think, feel.

“I’m trying to reflect what’s happening to me and the world more realistically than sitting down and filtering out a linear story,” says Butler, whose songs, rich in imagery, allow open interpretation, much like a work of non-narrative contemporary film art. It poses questions and gives nary an answer. For example, “Are you ... Can you ... Were you? (Felt)” muses on the illusion of time, the problem with materialism, the adoption of television over literature, the struggles of African-Americans and so on.

Also within that song are clues to Butler’s writing processes: “Aw, dude/ The spicier the food/ When you chew, fuck their rules/ It’s a feeling.” Furthermore, as he speaks via phone from his home, the way he describes his creative process isn’t dissimilar to how a medium would describe how they channel a deity from another realm.

“When I’m making music, I don’t feel like I’m doing something, as much as I feel like something is happening to me,” Butler says.

The environment has to be perfect—the lights dimmed, the proper tools put in place and Butler relaxed and calm. And then “it” just comes. He has difficulty (or maybe it’s reluctance) describing the process further, but gives the allusion of it being meditative—hypnotic even.

Butler doesn’t think too much—about the lyrics or the industrial, minimalistic beats that he produces with Tendai “Baba” Maraire. “I don’t necessarily like all the sounds or the rhymes [that come out], but I believe in them,” he says. “[It’s like] you’re spiraling up or down or to the side. But when your instincts come, that’s where it’s at.”

Yet it’s not all from a higher power; there is responsibility on his end, be it culling sources of inspiration or habitually jotting down lyrical sketches. He cites Harlem Renaissance poets—like Nikki Giovanni, Alain LeRoy Locke, James Baldwin and, especially, The Last Poets—as shaping his worldview and opening his eyes to wordplay and the power of language. These were tradition-challenging writers whose fresh and clever approach was derived from their urban environment. Butler is doing just that now. His work is not derivative of these cats, just informed.

“Everything is born of something else,” Butler says. On his phone, there are roughly 2,500 recorded notes—phrases, sketches, rhymes—but he rarely goes back to them as a direct source material. “Everything that I record or think about or write down or whatever, even if you never see it again, it all leads to a song in one way or another.

The whole process is magical, he says. “What’s happening is some divine stuff. You’re channeling and you feel like you’re plugged up into something. It’s hard to describe or chronicle. I’m not able to do it. I’m always amazed when cats can do that ... maybe when I’m older [I will be able to].”

It’s admirable to deal in the currency of mystery, though. After all, “It’s a feeling.”
Even if Butler could describe his creative process, he probably wouldn’t—that’s not his ethos. He shows glints of light on the broken glass of his fractured storytelling, and the listerner can extrapolate meaning. Butler’s job isn’t to provide answers, it’s to ask questions. 

w/ Dumb Luck, Ruddy CarpelThe Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 EastMonday, Sept. 10, 9 p.m.$

video & tune: flying lotus "until the quiet comes"

directed by the mysterious kahlil joseph, who also did two videos for shabazz palaces. i see why ish and this man get along: both have a non-linear, impressionistic or collage approach to their respective artforms. the interview above gives a fascinating point of view from ish that this is how life is actually perceived. i would add that that's how we 'should' be experiencing life but the modern world has many of us filing away all the fresh gleaming experiences and perceptions of our days into 'dusty categories' so we are no longer 'alive' to the present moment, and are living these shadow lives in our minds. i've found that reconnecting with my creativity has meant recognising this fact and using cunning (rather than willpower) to turn the situation around. anyway! here it is:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

some good writing on shabazz:

apologies for the lack of updates, ishmaelites.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

tune: hemisphere ~ paradis

(2012, beats in space records) one of the best music videos i've seen since "are you... can you... were you... (felt)"

Music & Water: Ish interviews Quincy !

Read in its proper home ">here on the City Arts magazine's website. A city that has a free arts magazine of this caliber is somewhere I am going to live in one day...

Music and Water
June 25, 2012 | by City Arts Staff

At Garfield High School in the Central District, there’s an auditorium named after Quincy Jones—composer, producer, 27-time Grammy winner, class of 1948. Ishmael Butler played his first-ever gig there before graduating in ’87 and now leads Shabazz Palaces, the most vital musical project in Seattle today.

Quincy reminds me of Seattle. A lot of cats from Seattle, when I see them around the world, they have this centrifugal force. Especially Garfield people, people from the Central. In my grandparents’ generation, most people who ended up in this corner were daring people who went out on a limb, who heard about a place and went there because it had the appeal of the frontier. The product of that is visionary, imaginative, personable, familiar people who are explorers at heart.

Quincy’s very uncle-ish. He’s gonna shoot straight with you. Call bullshit on you. But it’s all from a very loving and caring and selfless point of view. He sees family as something important. There’s a musical family, a cultural family, a family of race, a family of people concerned with the same thing. Then he talks to you like that. Because he cares. About you, your well-being, what you know, what you believe, what’s true. That’s rare in this increasingly individualistic society.

He’s a creative and mathematical thinker, a composer. He knows whether to have two or three trombones versus many trumpets and saxes. What the parts are gonna be and who’s gonna play when. This is how his mind works. Who can think like that at 80 years old? You’re putting together 40, 60 years in one sentence and it makes sense? C’mon. He’s a super human.

Talking to him was a bit surreal. At first I was anxious. Like, what am I gonna say? But you don’t have to say much. —Ishmael Butler

ISH I hear you’ll be dipping off to Europe tomorrow.

QUINCY No, I just got back from Paris. I saw [Salman] Rushdie, [Nicolas] Sarkozy, [Roman] Polanski. Everybody. I used to live there.

ISH I know! We played one time at Montreux and they invited us to the house you got up there for a barbeque.

QUINCY Up to the chalet?

ISH Yeah.

QUINCY We’re opening the festival on the first of July. Claude [Nobs, Montreux Jazz Festival cofounder] and I are partners now. We’re partners with the whole festival—the jazz caf├ęs, 15,000 hours of content, all that stuff. He’s an amazing cat, man. They made him a legend at the Apollo—first European they did that to.

ISH You know, when I was in this group called Digable Planets, we played at the Grammys, and you know who played with us that day?


ISH [Trumpet player] Clark Terry.

QUINCY That’s right. Well guess what? I’m going to Arkansas Monday, I’m recording Snoop Dogg with Clark Terry.

ISH Yeah?

QUINCY Yeah. Snoop is doing the hip-hop and Clark’s gonna do “Mumbles.” It’s a historic record, because it’s like 40 generations apart. Clark taught me when I was 12 and was also the one that influenced Miles Davis.

ISH I read that in Miles’ book. Where did you meet Clark Terry? In Seattle?

QUINCY Yeah, I was 13 years old and Basie kind of adopted me. I was out at the theater all the time and Clark was playing with Count Basie.

ISH Wow. He’s a little older than Miles, right?

QUINCY He’s 91! Are you kidding? I conducted Miles’ last concert in Montreux in ‘91. He was 65 then and he died the next year, the end of ‘91. It was a sad day, man.

ISH You know that’s right. When was the last time you been to Seattle?

QUINCY I come up all the time! My brother is a federal judge there.

ISH I know—a couple of my friends have been in front of him before.

QUINCY I bet they have! He did the Ridgway case, the serial killer. He’s a crazy dude, man. He told me he had a guy in front of him, and he said, “Can I have your name, sir?” He says, “Fuck no.” He said, “Excuse me, you’re in a court of law. You could be held in contempt of court. I’m gonna ask you one more time, may I have your name?” He says, “Fuck no.” He was Vietnamese: P-h-u-o-c N-g-o. His name was Phuoc Ngo. He was crazy, man. They’re talking about my brother for the Supreme Court now.

ISH Oh, really?

QUINCY Yes, sir. To replace Clarence Thomas.

ISH Do you know about Wheedle’s Groove and all those cats, the funk stuff around Earth, Wind & Fire days?

QUINCY Well, I started up there with Ray Charles. He was in Jacksonville, Florida—he could see ’til he was six, when he got chicken pox and he scratched his eyes and got infected. He went to a white hospital and they wouldn’t let him in. By the time he got to a black hospital, he was blind. He told his friend when he gets $600 he wants to get as far away as he can. And that’s definitely Seattle. I met him in ’47 in Seattle. And it went from 14, 16, our whole life together. He taught me how to read music in Braille. Amazing brother, man. He started out singing like Nat Cole and Charles Brown and playing alto like Charlie Parker, then he went to California and got hung up on smack and started singing like gospel.

ISH I’m curious about Miles, too. I read this book and he talked about his St. Louis days, but coming to New York, too. Were you coming to New York around that time, too?

QUINCY Did you read Quincy Troupe’s book?

ISH That’s the book I read.

QUINCY I’m all over that book, man. Miles—he was one of my closest friends. He and Sinatra were the same. The bark was stronger than the bite. It was nothing but love, man. Nothing but love all the way.

ISH I’m curious about the session musicians you had playing on the Michael Jackson records. Were those cats you just knew? How’d you get them all together?

QUINCY Like I do all the rest of them: Just get the guys that fit the job. Every producer is based on something else. They’re engineers or they’re songwriters or they’re singers. I was based on orchestration and composition. I was an orchestrator since I was 14 years old and I went all the way to symphony orchestras. It’s a question of knowing exactly what sound will make them sing better than they’ve ever sung in their life.

ISH Did you have tryouts or did you already know those cats?

QUINCY Of course! I knew every bad motherfucker that ever walked, man. In the world.

ISH Right on.

QUINCY ’Cause I love music, man. When we came up, we were not into money or fame at all. There was no entrepreneurship. It was just to be as good as you could be and try to help revolutionize the music. I came out on the end of that, because I came out of the big band era.

ISH What part of town was the music poppin’ in Seattle when you were coming up?

QUINCY Jefferson. The Washington Social and Education Club, the Rocking Chair, the 908 Club. We used to go down to the Elks Club, which was on Jackson in the red-light district, and we’d play down there just to jam, just to play our bebop, you know. We’d play the Seattle Tennis Club first, play pop music, then play Washington Social Club, play stoop music, then rhythm and blues, you know. We’d play everything in Seattle back then. We worked for the kitty. You know what the kitty is?

ISH What is it?

QUINCY It’s a stand with a pole on it and it’s got a wooden cat’s head, and a light in it, and they’d come up and ask you, “You know the song ‘Big Fat Butterfly’?” And if you do, they’d put 50 cents or a dollar in there. That’s what we used to work for. We didn’t get paid; we worked for the kitty. Ray Charles, everybody. Everybody worked like that back then.

ISH What band you got going now?

QUINCY My band! I got a group of young kids, from nine years old to 15, 16. Twenty-seven of the best musicians on the planet, man, trust me. From Cuba, Africa, Budapest—the baddest suckers on the planet. I have a nine-year-old girl, half Moroccan. Man, she’s been composing for symphony orchestras since she was five years old. Obama calls her Baby Mozart. But she plays bebop, she plays bossa nova, everything.

ISH So you just meet them along the way on your travels?

QUINCY No, they find me, man. These two in Budapest just found us. They’re gonna play with us on July 1. I’m talking about a little gypsy guitar player that at 10 years old plays as good as George Benson, man. I’m serious. You know I know.

ISH I know you know!

QUINCY It’s just astounding to see the quality. Because the reality is they know more about our music than we do. Outside of about 10 rappers, you ask a kid who Louis Armstrong or Basie or Duke or Coltrane or Charlie Parker is, they don’t know who the fuck you’re talking about. And that’s not gonna work, man.

ISH Right.

QUINCY I just talked to [writer] Nelson George about an hour ago—we’re gonna do a book on how this shit really went down. When do you think rap started?

ISH Well, it’s hard to say.

QUINCY It’s not hard to say if you know!

ISH My dad would say H. Rap Brown or even Oscar Brown, Jr. That’s what he would tell me.

QUINCY Oh man, please! Are you kidding? I worked with Oscar Brown in the ’60s, man. It was around 30 years before. You got a minute? Lemme read something to you.



I was walking through the jungle
With my d--- in my hand.
I was the baddest motherfucker
In the jungle land.
I looked up in the tree
What did I see?
A little black mama
Trying to piss on me.
I picked up a rock,
Hit her in the c---,
Knocked that bitch
A half a block.

Now, when do you think they did that?

ISH I don’t know, man.

QUINCY That’s rap, ain’t it?

ISH Yeah, it is.

QUINCY 1929! [Laughs] The Dozens, man. The gangs used to use that to start fights, but it was stone hip-hop, stone rap. I was involved in rap in 1937. I was six or seven years old, out in the streets with the gangs. [Ed note: The Dozens is a game of insults historically played in African-American communities. Jones is reciting a famous “Dirty Dozen.”] It came from Africa, man—the play shouters in South Africa and the griots in West Africa. The breakdancing all came from capoeira in Brazil, some martial arts. The problem is people don’t know history. We’re trying to get a definitive curriculum so they know what the fuck really happened, man. Because they don’t know! That’s not good. We’re the only country in the world that does not have a minister of culture. We went into all these situations like Columbine because kids do not know who they are. If you don’t have a culture, you can’t know who you are.

ISH That’s true.

QUINCY If you know where you come from it’s easy to get where you’re going.

ISH So you’re gonna do a book on the history of music?

QUINCY Yeah, everything. All of it. How it got started, how it picked up. How we wouldn’t have jazz if it weren’t for the French and slavery and Congo Square and Paris. Just to lay it down like it is, like it was.

ISH Right on. One record that was big for me was that soundtrack you did for Sidney Lumet. I remember listening to that and a lot of other rappers were listening to that, too.

QUINCY The Pawnbroker?

ISH Yeah.

QUINCY Sidney Lumet gave me my first five movies. They didn’t have black composers back then. We had to break the ground open for that. Sidney [Poitier] was the acting thing and he passed the composing thing to me, you know. Because you couldn’t get in. It was a challenge, man. But I love challenges. Say it’s impossible, man, and you got my attention.

ISH What do you think of the new rap music? You listen to a lot of it?

QUINCY The stuff that’s good, yeah. To me there’s nothing but good and bad music, and no genre. I mean, I understand every genre out there. It’s either they know what they’re doing or they don’t know what they’re doing. Don’t have to call no names, but I know who doesn’t know what they’re doing. I know who wouldn’t know a B-flat if it had a red suit on! You know? That’s the problem, because the rappers are just like the jazz dudes. Very creative, but they have to deal with music people that don’t know what the hell they’re doing. They don’t have a clue. So they do the samples. You know, we used to get [requests for] 30 samples a week. Tupac’s “How Do You Want It” is a sample of mine. All of them. Kanye, Ludacris’ stuff, Wu-Tang Clan. All had samples of our stuff. That’s all good, man, but what are you gonna sample 20 years from now?

ISH Yeah.

QUINCY We gotta start creating music, too. I remember Bone Thugs-N-Harmony started to take the rhymes and make melodies out of them. That’s a natural progression, you know. That should happen more. And it will. It’s like “Moody’s Mood for Love.” It’s been around since 1949. Moody did that in Stockholm in 1949—he played a jazz solo over the chords to “I’m in the Mood for Love” and played his own—“There I go, there I go, there I go”—which Eddie Jefferson wrote. That was the first vocalese song. And that’s when you take a jazz solo and write lyrics to it. Kids are still singing that on American Idol.

ISH Oh yeah.

QUINCY It’s an interesting evolution. But we, more than anybody, have to know what the hell really happened. And we don’t know. Because the school system doesn’t teach it, because they don’t know. Our classical music is jazz and blues and everybody in the world knows it. That’s why we’re working on a definitive curriculum. We’re on top of it, man.

ISH That’s good news.

QUINCY Music is a powerful animal. You cannot see it, you can’t touch it and you can’t smell it. But, man, it can sure touch you and turn your soul upside down. I believe music and water will be the last things to leave this planet.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Support an artist at work

Yoshi who is a close friend of mine who has contributed poetry inspired by Shabazz Palaces to this blog, is trying to raise funds for recording a new album and has made a kickstarter page, so make sure you check out this talented and unique individual who is on the up, and if you can support him even with just a dollar, it all helps:


Apologies for the prolonged silence, palace people. I packed up my life into storage and moved my family to the states for the summer and maybe longer. Recently I've been deepening my relationship with the music and autobiography of Miles Davis. Since Ish said "Miles, that's my idol" and Ish is my idol, the conclusions of my findings don't surprise me: If you want to understand Ishmael's music on any meaningful level, then you have to swim in the sea of not only the Last Poets, but also Miles. I'm ready to dive in. Miles Davis is cool as fuck...!

Syncretically, as so often happens, during this period a new interview with Palaceer Lazaro surfaced in which he mentions On The Corner as something epochal in his evolution. Check it out:

"Shabazz Palaces: Never mind the past or the future" by Adam Hicks for Freq Magazine

When Digable Planets emerged in the early '90s, many people’s definitions of hip hop were shattered. Sure, the Native Tongues movement was already beginning to be noticed worldwide, but this was decidedly different. The same people who labeled De La Souls “hip hop hippies” likely called Digable hip hop beatniks, but, in both cases, the labels would be much too vast of a generalization. The common description of their music was reminiscent of poetry and smoky jazz lounges, but their fingers were on the pulse of something much bigger.

Much like Digable Planets changed the landscape of hip hop’s golden era, former frontman Ishmael Butler recently re-emerged to challenge our view of contemporary rap. Now known as Palaceer Lazaro, he leads the Seattle-based outfit, Shabazz Palaces. Achieving what the vast majority of golden-era rappers have fallen short of, Shabazz Palaces remain relevant and belong to the cutting-edge community of modern artists, such as Flying Lotus and El-P. Their glitchy beats and cryptic lyrics may be the basis for some people’s descriptions. But after briefly chatting with Butler, it is clear that the band likely hopes no two people describe their music the same. Or describe it at all for that matter.

Freq: Ishmael, from Digable Planets, to Cherrywine, to Shabazz Palaces, you can always be described as cosmically in tune, or at least seem that way. Can you sum this up into words?

Ishmael Butler: All of these ideas are given to me.

Freq: What are some of your influences inside and outside of hip hop music?
IB: Inside and outside hip hop, O am influenced by the hidden motions in the rhythms, the felt things and Buki Akib and then Kerry James Marshall and Blackthoven.

Freq: Would it be safe to say your music delves deep into both the past and future?
IB: It is unsafe to say things for certain, but say this: at our best we are delving into the moment with the past and future never minded.

Freq: Do you feel that hip hop music has any voids that you are filling?
IB: No hip hop is always and all ways filling voids in me.

Freq: If there are a couple quintessential jazz albums that our readers should check out to help the uninitiated listener understand your music better, what are they and why?
IB: Well, not to understand my music — my music is to be liked, not really understood. I don't claim to understand it, but these records will help you understand the world and some you as well: On the Corner, by Miles Davis and Make it Last Forever, by Keith Sweat.

Freq: Why is it important for people to have an open mind towards music?
IB: It’s not important, but it is very fun and exciting.

Freq: You guys have a very creative live set. How did it evolve into being?
IB: We were trying to get girls' attention.

Freq: Why is it important for hip hop artists to bring such creativity to shows?
IB: It’s not. It’s just fun as fuck.

Freq: Are there any other contemporary artists that you would recommend your
fans check out?
IB: Lil B, and THEE Satisfaction.

Freq: Why is it important to challenge your listeners?
IB: It’s not, it’s important to try hard to refresh your instinct when you do IT.

Catch Shabazz Palaces at Hi-Fi Club on June 21st and Olympic Oval on June 23rd

Sunday, April 29, 2012

tune! elias rahbabi's levantine psychedelia (1974)

psych-e-delic and fat

some funky funky beats from lebanon circa 1974. elias rahbani!

Friday, April 27, 2012

tune: lovebug starski's "say what you wanna say"

1986. would love to know who produced. still ahead of its time. what greater compliment or adjective can i use to describe this revolutionary music other than...
hip hop

sartorial peek into the palaces

[via sabouha binti]

wow, what a cool idea. mtv hive talking and interviewing all about ish and tendai's style, and highlighting their tour wardrobe's plushest exhibits. that iphone case is something else- i noticed it when we met in birmingham... it looks like a solid gold bullion from the back and would definitely survive being thrown off a skyscraper (if anyone knows where to get one pls email me at eaglessoaroilflows at gmail) and the shabazz palaces sweatchirts?! i want one. they're made by tarboo, who i'm about to harass. click below to read (highly recommended):

Shabazz Palaces Combat Homogenized Hip-Hop Style by Marissa G Muller (MTV Hive)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

musicians and their masks

[via untitled]

seattleite andrew matson writes for npr on this subject, including on shabazz and words from maikoyo alley-barnes.

check it out here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

pitchfork video

is it just me or is the resolution quality of this video more vivid than real life?!

Monday, April 23, 2012

small talk with ishmael butler

(photo: Afghan Hackmanite Winchite Shown phosphorescing after exposure to UV light. from watanafghanistan via some minerals website.)

this is from acclaim mag back in january when shabazz palaces were touring down under. where women glow and men plunder. man i can't get enough of the poetry. check this out:
"By night I… exe(o)rcise my desires." well it's obvious what "exercise my desires" refers to, but "exorcise my desires" seems to refer to releasing all the music and art trapped in, as if the songs were demons that needed to literally be exorcised! that's genius, and the whole interview is very fantastick. it's funny that an irreverent little interview like this can be ten times cooler and wittier and funner than the usual boring effort. also it's cool how he talks on the prophecy of his name, which is one of the reasons i called this site "ishmaelites" and is really interesting. another time for that tale...


My name is…. what it is has always been.

By day I… live out the prophecy of my name.

By night I…. exe(o)rcise my desires.

My favourite TV show is…
Family Guy in the first two years after I discovered it.

The last movie I watched was… Tactical Advantage.

The first CD I ever bought was… on sale.

The last was…. Mellonchollie and the Infinite Sadness.

If I wasn’t making music I would probably be… doing it anyway.

I’m addicted to…. her (awet’s) touch.

The best thing about the States is… NFL and NBA.

The worst thing about the States is… Republicans.

When I get to Australia I can’t wait to…
check into my room and shower then leave and get it poppin.

The last time I was in Australia I… wasn’t alive in this incarnation.

When I tour I like to…
tell people I’m a rich diamond merchant in country on a deal.

The last thing I ate was…
a squirrel I caught up the street from my house.

My fave youtube vid is…

My computer’s wallpaper is… peeling.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

live show review from philly

image via stmruss

read original here or read on:


Ten Things We Saw and Learned at the Shabazz Palaces Show Last Night

By Beth Stollman

Many things happened in the world last night. For example, ten thousand freelance writers blew their brains out after submitting their taxes. We didn’t do that. We were at the Shabazz Palaces concert at The Blockley. A band opened for the Seattle rap project, but we don’t know who that band was. And there was a headlining band, but their name is too complicated for us to write this early in the morning. Here are 10 things we saw, heard and learned.

1. Philadelphian King Britt, who used to DJ for Shabazz boss Ishmael Butler a.k.a. Butterfly’s old group Digable Planets, was DJing when we walked in at about 9:30pm. He was kicking a Stereolab tune.

2. Make Major Moves ain’t a gossip rag, but there were some local music celebs in the building. We spotted South Philly rapper Lushlife, and Butler’s Digable Planets comrade Cee Knowledge a.k.a. Doodlebug. (We were hoping for an on-stage reunion, but that didn’t happen.) We also spotted some members of a very prestigious Philly rock band, but we don’t want to blow their covers. Let’s just say we saw members of the band “Woman Woman” enjoying the show. There were others, but we’re not saying who. You should’ve been there.

3. Butler a.k.a. Palaceer Lazaro was rapping and pushing buttons on a sampler and a Mac. He was joined onstage by Shabazz partner Tendai ‘Baba’ Maraire, who is the son of Zimbabwean mbira master Dumisani Maraire. Baba was kicking a mbira, a drum kit, some small percussion instruments and adding back-up vocals.

4. The duo doesn’t perform songs quite like the recorded versions you may be familiar with from the albums Shabazz Palaces, Of Light and Black Up. There’s an improvisational element, and the tunes are radically expanded, provided even more space to sprawl, lounge, linger, drift, meditate, elevate. Songs begin, vanish, merge into other songs, and then other songs, and then the song that began begins again. The experience is somewhat similar to Black Up’s “Are you… Can you… Were you..?” in which three movements develop across a single track. But this was different, as tracks unexpectedly evolved into other tracks. Tracks on tracks on tracks. It was dreamlike. Like a Terry Malick flick. Like too much Nyquil for breakfast.

5. Rap concerts are normally terrible if you go for the music and not for the party. This is what happens at about 85% of the ones we go to: a DJ plays the recorded version of a song and a rapper raps over it. But the DJ doesn’t just play the instrumental, s/he plays the recorded version with the vocals included. So the rapper is rapping over her/himself. It’s disgusting. It shows us that the rapper cannot rap live the way s/he does on wax. Lazaro doesn’t do this. He raps live. There’s no track playing in the back. The instrumentation–some samples, some acoustic, some electronic–is all happening live. And since, as mentioned above, there’s a spontaneous element introduced to the performance such that the songs structurally shift in unpredictable ways, that weak shit most rappers display is not even possible for Shabazz.

6. Many rap fans don’t dig Shabazz Palaces. Namely because the music is so goddamn strange. It doesn’t quite fit into the mold of Lex Luger maximalism or “Rack City” minimalism. It doesn’t sound like anything on rap radio. It’s out. And, as a consequence, Lazaro isn’t given the props he deserves on the mic. While meditating deeply on Lazaro’s lyrics during the performance, we were reminded of a comment Philly rapper Zilla Rocca made on music blog Passion Of The Weiss about him. “Ish is fucking gangster,” wrote Zilla. “You don’t have to like the music behind Shabazz Palaces, but if you write down Ish’s lyrics and put them over Rick Ross beats, you’d understand the slickness.” It’s true. Put Lazaro over a Luger trap-beat, and he’d sound harder than Gunplay. But we prefer him spitting over his own bizarre beats and textures, which sound much more interesting than all that radio rap shat.

7. Something we didn’t expect to happen happened a few times. Lazaro and Baba had worked out some synchronized dance moves, and every once in a while they’d clap and sway in unison.

8. See that photo up there? ^^ I took that. Holler at me if you wanna hire me to shoot your wedding.

9. One of the highlights of the roughly 35 minute set was “An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum.” Baba kicked an extended mbira jam, gradually building up a series of melodies above a heavy, but minimal, bass line. (Oh yeah, that reminds us, the bass was fucked at The Blockley. It sounded like a speaker blew pretty early in the night.)

10. Another banger was “Chuch” from Of Light. This is one of Shabazz’s hardest tunes. Lazaro rapped ferociously over Baba’s rhythms: “Ever since the ships came, we kicked slick game make name mistake the claim, and never ever ever tame, and stay way fresher than the ‘presser.” And what do they call that? “Survival with style,” goes the chorus. Think about it.

–Elliott Sharp wants you to follow him on Twitter @Elliott Sharp.

available today only

...because today is (independent) record store day. a vinyl pressing of the kexp sessions last year, nothing new, but on purple wax, with a stunning leif podhajsky cover, and limited to 2000 copies. thanks to jonathan for hooking me up with a copy... can't wait to see this. click here to find your nearest independent record store and support it. we only have each other!

Friday, April 20, 2012

news ~ new remix ahoy

yet another cool band i've been introduced to via palaceer lazaro. s.c.u.m are young 'wall of sound' rockers from SE london... the single of amber hands comes with a shabazz palaces remix. haven't been this excited about a remix since the FOE one. ish's choice of tunes to remix is fascinating, and i can't imagine how this is going to sound given the attentions of shabazz. FOE's cold hard rock at least had a strong beat to begin with but the marriage of this ambient, droney wall of sound texture with the demented cosmic synth logic of sp (and will there also be vocals?) promises to be beyond anything we've ever heard before. the original is below, and the remix will be released on may 7th, that is just over 2 weeks time

Life Changing Art: Ishmael Butler

What a great idea. John Lewis of Baltimore Magazine has this series called "Life Changing Art" in which he asks people about (visual) art that changed their lives. Read the original using the above link or read it below. The art is by Mati Klarwein (1970) and he did many classic covers including Miles's Live Evil and Santana's Abraxas.


What piece of art changed your life? How did it affect you?

The cover to Miles Davis' Bitches Brew. It was the first time I saw music—the feel of the sounds—represented in imagery that seemed perfect in both its abstractness and literal interpretation.


THEESatisfaction: Queens (Video)

Directed by Dream Hampton

TheeSat are coming, bringing a refreshing femininity to hip hop culture. This video is intriguing: intimate yet distant, awkward yet smoothly confident, sexy yet respectful. Their album, Awe NaturalE, is sweet and features Palaceer Lazaro rapping on 2 cuts.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New Tendai Solo project


Tendai aka Baba Maraire has been busy in between tours working on this project based on Zimbabwean resistance to British Imperialism, which was led by the deluded psychopath Cecil Rhodes. Check out this hot track, and prepare to be impressed by Maraire's flow and a beat I can hear blowing up from new world to old:

You can go to the Chimurenga Rennaissance website and read more about the whole thing, as well as pick up a copy of Tendai's solo LP of traditional Zimbabwean Shona music Wona Baba Maraira. It's pretty disgraceful that Rhodes' name has escaped much of the disgrace that is his due. Partly that's due to all the cash he left people. I'm going to write a bit about that later but for now I've been either looking at a screen or drawing all day and i've starting to get dizzy so good night one and all and I leave you with the video for the project made by Charles Mudede, called rhodZi!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

that unreleased track

great live footage from pittsburgh. "punk bitch was you there tonight?" who else can ask rhetorical questions involving the manipulation of linear time and make it sound so gangster i ask you

Monday, April 16, 2012

tune - todd terje

snooze 4 love. this be the shit:

in-theatre radio studio performance

a clean version of an echo with the verse from chuch: from a radio station in minneapolis called the current:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

atlanta interview: perception, abstraction, reality

Ascension by Leif Podhajsky via his blog.

Ish makes this amazing point: the songs don't just switch up beats/structure because of some kind of effort of will or conscious decision; it's an organic process- nothing in life is linear (except an office job/other creations of post-Enlightement modern western man in all his wisdom) but just like life: perception coming from all 5 senses simultaneously, as well as your intuition (from the subconscious) and how you are processing that, not only via 'thinking' but also 'feeling'. i've been reading about the 4 personality functions according to c g jung and it all makes much sense in conjunction with this idea... that for a beat to just stay the same for 4 minutes is kind of artificial and boring to say the least. in the future people will look fondly on the formative period of hip hop as musically conservative, but just as ish is on the vanguard of this new evolution, by the time others have caught up he will be onto some next shit not stopping to think about the history of this or that. too inspirational...

Read in its original home here at the Atlanta Creative Loafer website, or below:


Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael Butler talks perception, abstraction, and reality

by Chad Radford

More than a year after Shabazz Palaces released it’s third offering, Black Up — the first hip-hop album to call Sub Pop Records home — the American underground music scene is still quietly chattering over the group’s seemingly abstract excursions into atmospheric beats, atonality, rhythm, and texture. Black Up arrived as a dense but captivating listen, but it's an album that the music’s principal mastermind Ishmael Butler (a.k.a. Palaceer Lazaro, a.k.a. Butterfly of Digable Planets) doesn’t see as eschewing the naturally non-linear pace of waking life — even in the collision in musical narratives unfolding in both the construction and titles of such songs as "Free Press and Curl," “Swerve...the Reeping of All That Is Worthwhile (Noir Not Withstanding),” and “Endeavors for Never (The Last Time We Spoke You Said...)."

This town was in an uproar when word spread that Shabazz Palaces was playing in Athens and not Atlanta.

Yeah, I wish we were playing there too, and I don’t even understand why we’re not.

It’s difficult to address this without sounding petty, but when the Athens show was announced, I had people nudging me at the bar asking things like, “Why aren’t they coming here? They must not like Atlanta hip-hop …”


Atlanta can get both protective and defensive when aesthetics enter the conversation. There are a lot of different hip-hop aesthetics being explored in the local underground scenes, but the music that gets heard the most outside of Atlanta isn’t often associated with “intellectualism” or “abstraction” — although those elements are very present in certain underground scenes here — both of which are qualities that I associate with your music, from Digable Planets to Shabazz Palaces. I think other people do to, and when they start connecting the dots on their own they draw all kinds of crazy conclusions.

That's true ... The main misconception here is that bands go and play shows where they want to. The reality is that they go where they’re invited and where they’re booked. Atlanta is a destination that we would love to come to and play a show. The music that comes out of there — even though like you’re saying isn’t always very intellectual on the surface, we don’t really feel that way. A lot of times the intelligence in music lies in its instincts, and we love Southern music and Southern hip-hop — crunk music, and all that. We love all that music, a lot. … But when you set out on tour you don’t say, “We want to play here, here, here, and here.” It’s more like, who’s putting out offers, and who’s inviting us. But yeah, it’s not like we wouldn’t come to Atlanta because of some kind of aesthetic choice. We wouldn’t do that to any city.

I believe you when you say that you’re drawn to the abstract qualities in the music, but it’s not really like that for us. When you walk down the street your thoughts aren’t linear. The shit you see and feel, and your reactions are from being so accustomed to a variety of sensual experiences that you don’t really register as being as fantastic as they really are. The way our videos and the way the music changes represent something more literal, something that’s much closer to life than something that’s an abstraction of life. To me, you if speak about, or just stay in one kind of groove for four minutes — nothing like that happens in real life except for sleep or maybe an office job, or something like that. But we don’t really approach art from those kinds vantage points. So it’s more like we’re living and translating, transferring it all into some kind of art form, which happens to be music. So it may seem abstract, but for us it is a very literal translation of the way that life passes by.

Do you ever consider how the music that you make or how your position as an artists is perceived?

No, not really. It’s not that different from the other stuff, to me. I don’t doubt that people see it as being different or as you said, abstract, but I didn’t mean to approach it like that. We go off of instinct and do the things that seem natural, and just go with things that feel like a groove and harmony and melody or whatever. Whatever comes out, we just leave it like that. So it never really seemed all that different to me. It has been taken that way, but we don’t mind.

When Black Up was released last year, I don’t think I read anything about the record that didn’t allude to you not doing interviews, or that you keep you presence or history Digable Planets concealed. Was that real or just some sort of media virus?

No, it wasn’t real. It was just some peoples’ original take on our whole stance. I never understood the purpose of talking to a media person or a critic about the music. It’s like, … the music is there. To me it’s incumbent upon the person who has positioned himself as the critic, or the observer, or some kind of cat who can really analyze music. I never understood why they just didn’t do that. Instead they want to talk about, “hey, what’s your process? What kind of groups inspired you?” To me, that’s a misrepresentation of inspiration. To sit down and say, “This group inspired me to make this record …” That is so linear and so narrow that it seems impossible and somewhat myopic. So I always thought, look, you do your record, put it out, and then anything that happens subsequent to that in the media doesn’t necessarily need to include the person that did it, because the cat already did it. He made the artifact, so now go and do what you do with.

It wasn’t about secrecy or mystery. This talk that we’re having right now is pretty good, but during the last five interviews that I’ve done, the questions have been, “What’s the name of your group mean?” “What’s the process in the studio?” And I’m like "c’mon …" To get someone on the telephone and say "tell me something profound right now," doesn’t do the music any justice, and it veers away from the simple fact that we already put so much of what we feel and like and are sensitive to into the music.

So much talk about it kind of created an all new sense of mystery around the band, and a minor sense of mania in and of itself. People have a tendency to be really drawn to something if you tell them there’s a void in the information chain.

Yeah, but the only way that can be done properly is if whoever is doing it, really means it. It can’t be done as some sort of stunt or manipulation, which we never really wanted to do. It was what it was.

Friday, April 13, 2012

BIG news

thanks to a recent interview with mtv hive, we learn that sp is gonna collab with marley marl, as well as more stuff with thee satisfaction and spank rock. could this 'project' be the next lp? not only that, but some reworking of old african music in conjunc with king britt. wow. when tendai says "ish has a couple of tricks up his sleeve"... one of them must be the score to the tough bond documentary and subsequent concert in kenya, but the imagination is tantalised as to what else could be on the 'flyest horizon'. what an amazingly fertile period this is in ish's career.


Shabazz Palaces Working With King Britt, Marley Marl, Spank Rock
By: Marissa G. Muller | April 11, 2012

Shabazz Palaces have been quietly moving around since the release of their captivating debut Black Up. After guesting on fellow Seattleites THEESatisfaction’s recently-released album, awE naturlE and remixing Spank Rock’s “Car Song,” which features Santigold, Palaceer Lazaro (formerly known as Ishmel Butler) and his partner Tendai Maraire haven’t made much noise of their own while on tour to support their album. But that’s because they’re only warming up for more pairings to come.

“We have a collaboration coming up with King Britt, from Philly, who used to DJ for Digable Planets,” Maraire told Hive at their show at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall last week. “It’s been about two years in the making now. We’re taking my dad’s old records and sampling them and chopping them up and re-creating songs out of them.”

Though there’s no official release date yet, they’re working to finish it up “ASAP.”

Shabazz’s latest project will also bring THEESatisfaction back into the studio along with Spank Rock and Marley Marl. “[Ishmael’s] got a couple tricks up his sleeve too,” Maraire teased. “I don’t want to say what he’s working on.”

The eccentric pair are also spending time outside of recording with THEESatisfaction — who Butler affectionately refers to as their “little sisters” — on an ongoing cabaret-like series called Noir Night Ships. “We perform the whole show together. We do some sketch comedy, some nudity,” Butler jokes.

Nudity or not, people are feeling it all around. “The crowd participates and they’re very interactive with us,” Maraire says. “One lady came up and wanted a kiss from one of the girls [in THEESatisfaction]. It was hard to tell if she wanted just a peck.”

new slogan

seen as it's all about branding these days, ish and co have made their own slogan:

"Shabazz Palaces: The Raston Warrior Robot of Rap"

Nah just kidding, don't ask me why I'm posting this. Dr Who really stretched out our minds as kids and for me it wasn't so much the characters but the desolate, other-worldly locations. Like these slate mountains:

toronto footage

great crowd in sp's first toronto gig a few days ago. here they play "an echo from the hosts that profess infinitum", and as the audience goes crazy for what has become tendai's iconic mbira solo, it gives way to a spoken word reflection on trayvon martin's murder:

A funny thing happened on the way to the store,
Underneath a nice lush red, white and blue flag.
It gets clearer every day,
[the motto is]
Kill a nigga, and get away.

then it breaks into that white hot stone cold verse from "chuch". sound quality isn't bad actually, for a youtube clip, thanx to awesomeexcellence.

intervista italiano (in english tho)

wow this interview is cool.

Shabazz Palaces from repeat video on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

still refuting time

earliest digable promo flyer via high culture

from a recent interview with andrew matson:

You’ve performed in Seattle and New York City with Seattle duo THEESatisfaction, which includes two women who are about 15 years younger than you. Is it challenging making art with younger people? Do you sense a generation gap in that particular collaboration?

Uniform time while useful for things like arranging meetings and paddle boat rentals is proudly of no use to us dynamic electromagnetic kindred beings who love. The generation gap is a public pool on a 100 degree day, I swim.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Tour Bus Notes

sp affiliate larry mizell jr gives us the scoop from the shabazz palaces bus plus some classic music

Roadtrip Funk

How to Be Successful Without Being an Asshole,

This is a must-read. Funny and true. What a piece. Thank you Charles Mudede. Part of the excellent "Rock n Roll Survival Guide" The Stranger is really coming up with the goods. Click the link below to read in its home, or just scroll down to read the interview.

How to Be Successful Without Being an Asshole
Advice from Grammy Award–Winning Non-Asshole Ishmael Butler - by Charles Mudede

Ishmael Butler has had an extraordinary career in rap music. In 1993, his group Digable Planets released a huge hit and a hiphop classic, "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)." In 1994, Digable Planets received a Grammy Award for best rap performance by a duo or group. In 1997, he contributed to Camp Lo's Uptown Saturday Night (who will ever forget his role in the "Luchini AKA This Is It" video?). At the beginning of the '00s, Ish went underground, and near the end of the decade reemerged as something wonderful: Shabazz Palaces. Two years ago, Shabazz Palaces won a Stranger Genius Award. Last year, Sub Pop released Shabazz Palaces' Black Up, a record that received praise from almost every music blog/journal/critic imaginable. Because this is a lot of success for a rapper, we asked him...

What should a rapper do if he/she becomes famous?

Cut down on the time you spend looking in the mirror.

Are you serious?

Yes! If you make it big, you can't spend more than 15 minutes a week looking at your reflection, trying to see if that jacket will go with that chain. That's what will kill you. You start losing a sense of what's happening around you. You are the biggest danger to your own success. I have seen it so many times. A rapper becomes all about himself. Then they start sounding corny. They really believe they are great because of what they did and not because of what they heard or got from other people. Stay away from the mirror.

Describe the downfall of a big-time rapper.

The industry is not at all about dancing or starting a revolution; it's about moving product. When you can't see that anymore, the fall begins. This is why you want to be humble. You can only get richer if you are paying more attention to things that are outside of yourself.

What was it like to win a Grammy?

At that time, the Grammy was not perceived as it is now. The Grammys were not a place you wanted to be or go to. You did not make an album thinking about getting a Grammy. These days, you do. You record music with a Grammy in mind. We understood it as an industry thing, so we saw it for what it was. But it was fun to be there, don't get me wrong. My parents were there; I got to meet Aretha Franklin and Frank Sinatra. Those are amazing people and artists. To be among them was like being awake in a dream.

[also check out shabazz engineer erik bloods good advice on recording here]


wtf... tired of reading pieces where the writer was lucky enough to interview the man and then just churns out the same old copy incorporating only a sentence or two of what ish said. boring. i would much rather they just typed out a script of the interview, or even better, audio. link to a shabazz video, and that's it, the reader can make up their own mind.

Montreal Mirror - Once more with felt by Eric Leijon

It might be unwise to heed his words, as they essentially invalidate articles such as this one, but Shabazz Palaces frontman Ishmael Butler makes some valid points about trying to keep a shroud of secrecy over one’s music. Butler, known in this incarnation as Palaceer Lazaro but more famously as Butterfly from hip hop outfit Digable Planets, is reticent about divulging too many details about the making of Black Up, Shabazz Palaces’ evocative debut album, to the extent where the liner notes don’t even credit who did what.

“When I make music,” says Butler, “these thoughts, inspirations, ideas were given to me—I don’t necessarily claim them as my own. I don’t know where they came from, and just because they came through me doesn’t mean I need to take all the credit. There are a lot of people and influences who fuelled my experiences that I would never be able to properly credit. It’s a very small representation of what truly happens when a song is made.”

In reality, Shabazz Palaces is Butler and multi-instrumentalist Tendai Maraire, and both recreate Black Up’s inspired codex of African instrumentation, redolent jazz flourishes and futuristic elec­tronic gurgles on stage using drum pads, congas, keyboards and effects pedals, with Butler handling the elliptical lyricism.

The association loosely began about seven years ago after Butler relocated from New York City to Seattle. They began by pressing and distributing records themselves before becoming the first hip hop act to sign with iconic Seattle imprint Sub Pop. As with most things, Butler is pretty zen about the effects of moving to the Emerald City.

“You could call Seattle slower, but at the same time it expedites other aspects of your life because of the slowness,” he says. “For me, it’s mellow and a good environment for creating, but I don’t really notice. I’m just living life and not really paying attention to the reason why things are happening or where influences come from—it’s more of a flow.”

Butler is purposely opaque in deconstructing the mysterious Black Up, a sort of spiritual sand dune separating the 90s jazz-influenced, smooth-flowing hip hop of his own Digable Planets and the harsh electronic pyrotechnics of today. Then again, the album itself provides a key to unlocking his mindset, with the line “I can’t explain it in words/I have to do it.”

“To me, a song is much more authentic, revealing, final and official than anything subsequent to it, like an interview or some anecdote on how it was made, because all the information that’s needed is in the song. If that’s a lyric that you think has some weight, then it must, because it’s supposed to, and it means we’re talking about the song and nothing else. I feel like the act of mak­ing the music says a lot, that’s why we don’t have a lot to say.”

Because of his stature, and the fact that it’s undeniably his rapping above the murky haze, Butler exists as a sort of reluctant spokesman for the project. The music has a physical manifestation as well: the CD cover is made of felt, and there’s a song named after the fabric. “I like plush things, plush thoughts, plush songs,” he says. “Something with a surface that’s smooth to the touch or to the ear or to the eye, but there’s also a depth, a warmth.” ■


Thursday, April 5, 2012

New Remix

Spank Rock - Car Song f/ Santi Gold (Shabazz Palaces remix)

Performance & Interview @ Minnesota Public Radio

over 20 minutes of shabazz for your suddenly shiny spring evening. the songs are the treat: a reworking of 100 sph that they've called bad (but i was hoping for an MJ remix!) with some great contributions from tendai. an echo is similarly mashed up, this time with the vocals from chuch. recollections of the wraith closes proceedings. the interviewer, jade tittle, doesn't go very deep into the music, asking banal questions but can't criticize her - the music is just too future for a lot of people - and anyway her voice really is something to savour, but one can't be named jade tittle and not have a suitably sexy voice, now can one?

Performance & Interview @ Minnesota Public Radio

Sunday, February 26, 2012

fantabulous new interview by chal ravens

great new interview by chal ravens

big movements from below by chal ravens for loud & quiet magazine

it's amazing to think of that lyric "there's bout to be big movements from below" which was recorded before the shit hit the sand in tunisia, sparking the arab spring. also: "how you are is gonna dictate where you go" that's gold. think on it, brother. we keep thinking about where we want to be instead of who we are when that'll manifest where we end up!

props to ravens for the phrase "cryptically spiritual aesthetic" which hits the bullseye. check out some more of her startlingly prescient words at her home helium raven.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

cee knows moves & some early digable history crumbs

for all digable fans, an update on what doodlebug is up to these days, including some tidbits on the early planets philly connection that i've never read anywhere. when is someone going to write a book on them!? maybe i should...

Digable Planets' Craig Irving Makes His Comeback as Cee-Knowledge

and here's a new clip featuring he:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

hairs on end

damn! you know it's real hiphop when the sharpness, poise and power of the the mc makes the hairs on you arm stand up. check this mash-up on "an echo from the hosts that profess infinitum" and "chuch" from the recent show in frisco... (phew. deep breath)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

sp tumblr site up

someone has begun a shabazz palaces tumblr site. i don't know what tumblr is but the site is cool and has a smorgasmabord of photos n stuff some of which i'd not seen. like this.

i love it. it looks like an oil painting!!!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Battles ~ White Electric (Shabazz Palaces remix)

This is sweet but also bitter since the first verse is from the unreleased jewel "Allahu Akbar" inclining me to think that song won't get a studio release. "Trapped tightly in the eagles claws" that's a homage to the Last Poets it's from them. Interesting to hear it now amidst the rising dissatisfaction with "Reaganomics/Bushanomics/Obamanomics". it's cool to see ish becoming a remixer it's a whole new phase in his career since he's never done this before. So Shabazz has remixed Foe and now Battles... Ish always has had a strong love for British artists going back to the 90s and his work with D-Influence, ">Tek 9, and 4Hero. Hold on, maybe Battles are American.. anyway, here's the original (album) version as well:

palaceer laz SPEAKETH

*sorry there are no spaces.. the new blogger interface is obviously fucked up but i'm working on it or i'll migrate* this is one of the best interviews with ish i've heard since the interviewer goes straight to the point: spirit. i'm glad someone asked him point blank what kind of meditation he does since i've been wondering that too. it's not surprising that he made his own style rather than following a set method. you have to listen to the audio embedded below since that's a whole different interview than the printed one. enjoy>

artwork by jacob wilson.

Divine Palace: MC of Shabazz Palaces talks funk, spirituality

By Daniel Means

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Album Review: Shabazz Palaces

Ishmael Butler has been redefining what it means to be cool since his days under the pseudonym Butterfly of the Grammy Award-winning hip-hop trio, Digable Planets. Now, reigning at the forefront of modern hip-hop as Palaceer Lazaro of Shabazz Palaces, his musical experiment acts to liberate a genre confined by the formulaic production of recent years. Dropping the profusely praised album Black Up in 2011, Palaceer along with multi-instrumentalist and finger piano master Tendai Maraire, have created a musical space between psychedelia and hip-hop so sonically dense that the two genres can’t help but gravitate towards a funky sound.

Palaceer touched down at Yoshi’s in San Francisco last Thursday, putting on a mind-bending show with psych-indie rockers Siddhartha and saxophonist David Boyce both opening. Palaces’ performance could be imagined as the musical product of putting an ancient tribal-drummer and a beat-generation poet into a swagged-out space shuttle blasting off for an inter-galactic voyage.

The dynamic duo filled the jazz bar with astronomical chimes, organic conga drumming and enigmatic verses all the while keeping a danceable groove. With live experimentation ranging from a cache of voice modulations to laser-sharp synth tones, I was surprised that Palaceer was able to simply keep a flow — just imagine the feat of a musician taking the experimental beats of someone like Flying Lotus, rapping over them, while keeping his breath (not to mention sanity).

Underneath the thick, atmospheric layers of sound, there is something at the core of the group’s music that fundamentally challenges the state of current hip-hop. Their music confidently echoes from a sonically distant realm, bringing listeners a distinct noise that unveils the potential of a genre. Recently, I had a chance to talk with the Palaceer himself, carrying a free-form conversation on divinity, ghosts and all things funky.

Daniel Means: So you’ve had several characters from Butterfly of Digable Planets to the current Palaceer Lazaro. Is there a different individual behind each of these personas and how do these name transitions change the way that you make art?

Ishmael Butler: There’s not a different individual behind them. It’s like, when you get up and let’s say you have a job interview, maybe you’re going to a party, maybe you’re going to a date. All of these things require a different self of yours, both internally and externally. Now, we go to great extents to dress up that self or at least get into that self, so I just go a step further to name that self. The name is just a part of it all. It doesn’t allow or influence anything, it’s more like it’s the name of what’s happening to me, the name of the things that I’m understanding about myself and that’s why I attach it to whatever’s going on musically or artistically in me at that time. You know what I mean?

DM: I feel that. I’m curious. In your opinion, what’s the funk?

IB: The funk? Well, it’s kind of a cool word in the sense that there is no definition. It’s what you make of it really, and by that what I mean is this: It has to do with rhythm, it has to do with meaning, it has to do with instinct, it has to do with your talent. It’s the way you see things, hear things and want to make music feel. It all has to do with your ability to bring that shit together into something that people will either like or not like or call funky or not funky. A lot of it has to do with you, but a lot of it has to do with what is thought of, after you do what you do, of what you’ve done.

DM: So, lets talk about Black Up, which you released last summer. In the song “Are you…Can you…Were you? (Felt)”, you repeat the line “It’s a feeling.” For you, what does it mean to actually feel, and is there a feeling that you aim for throughout the music that you make?

IB: I’m not sure what it really means. I feel like, the feeling of surprise, of a good a surprise — the feeling that you notice something that you didn’t know before and it becomes apparent to you and how it sinks in and how you deal with that and what it does to you is the feeling to me. It’s being able to kind of grasp onto something that you didn’t know prior to finding out about it. And that excitement is something that I always look forward to in life.

DM: In your music, you talk a lot about freedom. For you, what does it mean to be free?

IB: Well, it’s an abstract word, you know? It varies, I think that a lot of it is attached to your courage, your level of courage. Because there’s a lot of people in this world born into situations that don’t really offer a lot of freedom. Yet, we see often that people from situations like that do amazing things because they kind of carve out a meaning for freedom in their situation for themselves and pursue that and do amazing things. To me, it’s like the courage to understand who you are in whatever situation you’re in, and maximize what can happen in that situation both affecting yourself and affecting other people.

DM: Awesome. Back to Black Up. Many of the tracks like for example, “An Echo from the Hosts that Profess Infinitum,” they have a spooky echo that’s almost ghostly. In fact you even discuss ghosts in your lyrics. So, do you believe in ghosts?

IB: Yes.

DM: And how do they affect the way you make music?

IB: Just timelessness. Life is not something that begins and ends with the ability to go and buy something at the mall. There’s just realms. There’s realms that are existing on top of each other and we get caught up in this realm so much because we’re losing our spirituality and our humanity and our connection with nature, so we just ignore a lot of shit that’s going on around us. I try to pay attention to things as much as I can and have a conversation with the universe instead of just going through it numbly. There’s ghosts of all kinds, not just people. It’s infinite too. Things that deal with ghosts, they’re not really to be talked about. You experience them. You know what I mean? It’s kind of like between you and that experience really.

DM: You were just talking about how certain things are read. Do you believe in fate, do you believe in a divine presence?

IB: Yeah I do. I don’t think it’s shaped anything like we’ve been taught. It’s something that people can discover through observations of things other than themselves. We live in such an individualistic society where everybody’s trying to get to the bottom of themselves. But, I think that if you can observe and have respect for the things that you’re observing and have sort of a child-like curiosity in it — I think you’ll find divine. The way things are working, the mechanisms of humans in the world, it’s not difficult to see how amazing and divine it is … I just think we have to pay attention to different things, I don’t think its that deep.

DM: When was the last time that you found the divine?

IB: Well, to be honest with you man, I find it all the time. Like I’m sitting at the park and there are people walking by … it’s just always here.

view this interview in its original setting on the daily californian website.