Tuesday, April 23, 2013

new interview

pretty decent. def worth a read in its original home bc it has some snippets of the audio interview at the bottom. i bet the new album won't come out until 2014. not to sound pessimistic tho...

(art by trasvorder)

Shabazz Palaces
Intrepid rappers take the genre into uncharted terrain
SHABAZZ PALACES with THEESATISFACTION at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor West), Tuesday (April 23), 8 pm. $20.

Ishmael Butler has been rapping for a long time, so when he expresses discontent with the current hip-hop landscape, it doesn’t seem bitter or rash.

“Engineering this art for success has made hip-hop very thin, myopic and impotent. There’s still moments of really intense colour and beauty, but it lacks depth,” says the MC over the phone from his hometown of Seattle.
“It’s been imperialized,” Butler continues. “People came down, figured out what was valuable and threw the value into the capitalist system. Hip-hop used to rally against that. Now the people at the forefront – I like to say, down at the top – are willing to propagate this whole kinda life. We didn’t come from this artistic-expressionless place, and it’s sad to be here now, with no respite in sight.”
Well, not exactly no respite. As the voice of hip-hop collective Shabazz Palaces, Butler delivers that colour and beauty in technicolour, along with instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire. Hip-hop is young, but Shabazz Palaces sound rooted in any number of ancient civilizations.
Their lane of rap music is relatively unpopulated, and unencumbered by the pressure to make radio-friendly hits, Shabazz Palaces’s songs grow in unlikely directions – to the immense relief of rap fans wanting more than predictable four-minute bangers.
Butler is contagiously laid-back, but when he wants to talk about something, his answers are like little poems, peppered with evocative language and echoing sentence structure. It’s not surprising that even on some of their intense, shouty songs, Shabazz Palaces sound more like spoken-word poets than commercial rappers.
Their debut 2011 album, Black Up, doesn’t follow typical rap codes. There is no verse-chorus-verse pattern, songs change mood and direction midway through, and while the words are simple and straightforward, the deeper meaning is often inscrutable.
Themes range from the serious (racism) to the not so serious (being in love). You can listen to the album many times without fully understanding it and, like good lit, new meanings emerge with each study.
Living and creating in Washington state, they lack the geography-specific musical attributes of hip-hop makers in New York, Atlanta and L.A., but Butler says that’s besides the point.
“We wouldn’t feel restrained to do anything a certain way even if Seattle did have specific characteristics.”
Backing up this claim is the fact that Butler lived in New York for 14 years, never subscribing to any particular formula. Among a plethora of other projects, in the mid-90s he rapped under the moniker Butterfly with the Grammy-winning alt-hip-hop trio Digable Planets.
Butler promises a follow-up to Black Up soon, and half-commits to a 2013 release. Those too impatient to wait should check out their tour mates, fellow Seattle hip-hop duo THEESatisfaction, an equally exploratory, all-female act who first appeared on a Black Up guest track and subsequently signed to Sub Pop.
Butler once described an album as the station his live show leaves from. If Tuesday’s point of departure is Black Up, fans should be ready for an exquisitely unpredictable ride.

the tour is happening. now.

you reap what you sow. now go.

best lyricist ever?

recently i had the urge to listen to ish's verse from borough check, in my opinion 20 of the illest bars ever put down on wax. not only did i manage to decipher new lyrics (this miraculous happening still occurs even though i must've listened to the records more than anyone alive) but browsing the youtube comments i came across an interesting one from a viewer:

"In my opinion, after Nas, Butterfly is the best lyricist in hip-hop history. Not to mention that he produced all these gems, and not including his slang-doctor capabilities."

i've often thought along the same lines, although i try not to think in heirarchical terms when it comes to art. but while arguably greater mcs like the illmatic one and rakim have some kind of manifest-to-all undisputable power, ish's raps to me have reached higher heights than any other rhymesayer alive or not. the poetry is just too sophisticated, too instinctual, the subtleties too... divine. i can't explain it but my mind comprehends high art in this case and for that i'm grateful. simply put, it can take you to places no other rap can. it's in another realm altogether. as time passes this'll become clearer to the world.

if you're working on writing rhymes, poetry, you seriously need to check ish's ish.

to the majority of listeners that may be a big claim, but to the veiled cabal of fans that just 'get' what this man creates, it's a self-evident truth. should you require evidence, however, look no further than his latest recording, the guest raps on vox mod's "iridescent asteroid mists": 20 years in the game and the dude drops 28 (!) bars of blazing fire, sounding hungrier than nas at 19. i got a chance to hang out with him this time last year in brighton and he said of his work, "i know the best is yet to come."

i've attempted to transcribe the lyrics.

talkin of nas, check the possible homage in the first bar: "ain't hard to tell". needless to say, there are surely mistakes and omissions so if you have any contributions hit the comment button below

start it off
that's how we start it off
blast it down
that's how we start if off

alive to tell
my motion strive deep as wells
the wave they swell
made by the slaves, ain't hard to tell
raise the crown
amazed for the new days, blazed in sound
syncopated, related, the high art blastin'
dipped in the passion,
flashy lil clowns (?)
when i hold my rope, squeeze my scope, i hope i choke, my rap gun smokes
fires and retires you and your folk
just to dash your hopes
like a fiend on the slopes
i can't stop
addicted to the slick shit that i pop
no, really: shoulda asked somebody
i blast your party, blowin the hottie (?), nigga i'm on your shorty
and the cake that i bake's straight thorough
i grease you
play you out n twist you like a curl
it's my world
we test you on the shit we quoted
when you fail,
when you get deported,
you __________ your beat, you swore it was heat, but nah it was weak
_________  unique,
please, you can't run, my uzi sprays, _________ stays
like __________, i kill your style for fun
there ain't no glitch in my matrix
the _______ is the fakest _______
pop culture say you hot like bitches with fake tits
________ workers, that's all we can fuck wit
forward with the culture angels that'll murk it
hustlers play the angles, they'll hug you then hurt you
cops' illegal searches stash a gat in your work
but it's the thang

that's how we start it off.