Complex. Topical. Intellectual. Personal. Grimy. Contentious. If only there was a single word that meant that Black Up sounds fantastic over 12 inch kickers.Shabazz Palaces has maintained an aura of mysticism that seems unlikely in our times of media oversaturation and online accessible artists. It’s clear who the lead emcee is though. There may be the occasional flourishes of electronic effects added to his voice, but Palaceer Lazarro shares his vocal chords with Digable Planets wordsmith Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler. On its own merit, the seamless blend of spaceship synth and jazz should be enough to warrant multiple listens. But while his voice may ocassionaly come across as monotonous he remains to be as far from a slouch on the mic as you can get. Not concerned with rapper stereotypes of swagger he pens some truly poetic lines; “Thou shalt bask in the light of my phone screen glow” seems casually spit but perfectly captures the sharing of individual experiences in the digital age with a hint of semi-religious terminology. A multi-layered sentence that shows an impressive command of language as a tool. And it just sounds pretty cool too.
The vocals, and their occasional distortions, perfectly match the intrigueing sounds beneath them. Though seemingly minimalist at first each beat packs deceptive twists and turns that demand attention. Most importantly, they sound completely fresh. Not just fresh in the old-school rap lingo since, but fresh in the sense of something new. There is simply no hip-hop act equivalent to this sound, and that is the album’s strongest selling point. No throwback 90s boombap, no endless rehashing of dirty south aesthetics, no empty boasts over blaring walls of synthesizers. By not only dropping a definite contender for top 5 album of the year, but dropping one with a sound wholly it’s own, Shabazz Palaces proves there’s still uncharted and fertile ground to be covered in this game of rap.
Words: Nahshon Landrum & Jaap van der Doelen
Shabazz Palaces – An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum
Shabazz Palaces – Swerve… the reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)