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