“My Body is Full of Stars” (Afrofuturism mixtape)

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“Afrofuturism carves out a space for black people to write ourselves into speculative pasts and futures, to reimagine our identities beyond and before human history and form.”

Black History Month is just about over, so I figured I better go ahead and show some love for the this mixtape that I came a across a little while back. Curated and programed by a music journalist and producer named Ian McQuade, it’s an accompaniment to a larger multi-media project created by the Irish-Nigerian writer/sociologist Emma Dabiri about the concept of Afrofuturism. (If you’re up for an intellectual treatise on race and culture and parallel histories you can Dibiri’s essay on Afrofuturism here— it’s pretty heady stuff though so be warned.)

Anyway, the concept is dope, and perfectly articulated—I mean cutting up a Sun Ra lecture at Berkeley and using it to thread the line between Jimi Hendrix, Egyptian LoverTV on the Radio, Shabazz Palaces, Deltron, ActressLTJ Bukem, Missy Elliot can’t get with that?

Dowload/stream the mix and check the tracklist after the jump.

Hendrix – EXP // Actress – Uriel’s Black Harp // Roots Soundtrack
Sun Ra – Berkley Lecture snippet
A Number of Names – Share Vari
Dirty Paraffin – Papap! Papap!
Missy Elliott – Smooth Chick
Binghams Speech
Strafe – Set It Off
Laura Mvula – That’s Alright
Richard Pryor – 2001 Monologue
Freddie Hubbard – This Is Combat I Know ­
Shabazz Palaces – An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum
Deltron 3030 – Virus (acapella)
TV On The Radio – The Wrong Way
Jimi Hendrix – 1963 (A Merman I Shall Be)
London Lucumi Choir – Cantos Espirituales
James Stinson phone interview
The Other People Place – Eye Contact
Egyptian Lover – Egypt Egypt
Sun Ra – Berkley Lecture snippet
Nigga Fox – Ze Piqueno
Bryte – I Like Your Girlfriend
Azealia Banks – Fierce
Tyree – I’m Free
DJ Cndo – Terminator
Leif ft Spank Rock – Star Alliance
SupaNova Slom – Energy
LTJ Bukem – Atlantis
Sun Ra – Outerspaceways Incorporated
Sun Ra Berkley lecture snippet

Our Favorite Sounds: 2014 Edition

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High Life before they sold out butcher Schlitz selfies… ahem. Let me try that one more time.

Happy new year everyone! We have a tradition at DECIBELity where we do our best-of/end-of-year lists at the beginning of the following year instead of the beginning of December like those other blogs.  Perhaps you thought we negligent or maybe just really late—well, you thought wrong. We are right on schedule.  You see, we do things a little bit different ’round here, it’s one of the many ways we set ourselves apart from the rest.

Each of us, as has become our custom, have chosen 15 or our favorite records and we each have created a mixtape including a single song from each of the aforementioned favorite recordings.

So, enjoy and we’ll be sure to continue to keep it DECIBEL’d for you all in ’15.

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Shabazz Palaces – “Les Majesty”

Sophomore albums can be tricky business, particularly when the record to be followed up on is as brazenly and uncompromisingly brilliant as Black Out (SubPop), which dropped on an unsuspecting world with the force and precision of a laser guided-missile. It was, simply put, a revelation. There was nothing at the time even remotely like it.

So the challenge in these types of situations is always: “How to meet expectations without just rotely rehashing what worked in the past?”, but pulling this off requires a deft balancing act, which all-too-frequently can’t be maintained by the heretofore celebrated act. (It doesn’t help that we, as a culture, so enjoy holding our idols aloft only to tear them down as soon as they misstep.) Fortunately for us (and also for them I guess), Shabazz Palaces avoided all that shit, by doubling down on what made them so great in the first place: their eclectic and unabashed weirdness—a wellspring that has proven remarkably deep. The Seattle-based duo went even further out on their trip and in the process created a record that while demanding becomes, upon repeated listens, a thoroughly satisfying sonic experience.

Shabazz Palaces tearing up the New Parish (Oakland CA) on July 29, 2014

Expansive and (let’s be honest) obtuse at times, Les Magestey contains most of what was great about Black Outthe mystic imagery, the Afro-futurist motifs, the startling attention to texture and detail—but as an album, is paced much differently.  The “songs” are shorter and more numerous, blending together with dream-like interludes, creating larger “movements.” The atmosphere is denser and weirder. And the beats slink along rather than smacking the listener upside the head.

I caught these guys in Oakland a couple of weeks ago, and fuck it might have been the best show I’ve seen all year. (Here’s some video courtesy of YouTube user Johnohnoh)

You can purchase Les Majesty here, and check out some of the songs below.

Shabazz Palaces – Motion Sickness from Tourist on Vimeo.

Shabazz Palaces – “Black Up”

After a couple of well-received EPs, Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler aka Palaceer Lazaro officially dropped the first full-length with his Shabazz Palaces project a few weeks ago.

Rap fans will probably remember Butterfly best from his work with ’90s hip-hop outfit Digable Planets.

But don’t expect to find anything like the whimsical, “we be to rap what key be to lock” beatnik-hop of the Planets here. Black Up, released on the indie-rock stalwart Sub Pop (the label’s first foray into hip-hop if I’m not mistaken), is on a much different tip – a rawer, moodier and altogether stranger one.

The production veers wildly. At times it seems to reference the kind of spaced-out experimental fusion pioneered by Sun Ra, with horns, strings, bongos, upright bass, and jazz piano combined into astral hip-hop grooves. Elsewhere it’s much closer to the industrial crunch of El-P; all clattering drums and throbbing bass lines held together by sinewy synthesized texture.

The lyrical tone, as well, seems to fluctuate rapidly – the widely divergent content (sometimes playful, sometimes almost militant) delivered in a hallucinatory stream of conscious as if it were mystic revelation. Reinforcing this mystique are recurrent themes of Sufism and a kind of Afro-futurism which are folded into the over-arching Arab motif. Even when we do glimpse the old playfulness of Butterfly – such as when he raps about women or clothes or going out to the club – it’s a Butterfly recontextualized in a time so different from the golden era ‘90s, it’s hard to believe it’s only been a decade and a half.

Black Up in a way is testament to Lazaro’s prowess and vision as an artist. It is his presence here that acts as a connecting thread holding together what otherwise would almost surely have been a jumbled mess of ideas and styles.

This is not for everyone, and it definitely aint club music, but it is one of the freshest sounding things to come out of hip-hop in a long time.

Heres a couple of freebies, a link to the daytrotter session, and stream the full album below.

Shabazz Palaces – Swerve…the reaping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)

Shabazz Palaces – 32 leaves dipped in blackness making clouds forming altered carbon

Shabazz Palaces – An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum

Shabazz Palaces – Recollections of the wraith (Daytrotter Session) (For the full free download of the Daytrotter go here.

And a video we cant leave out, with music by Shabazz Palaces and one of our personal favs Flying Lotus