Saturday, April 7, 2012


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.” ■


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