Abstract personalities and even conceptual production is off-putting at times, lacking the vital points that music needs to feel approachable. As Shabazz Palaces moves onto the center stage, illuminating their debut album Black Up, a wave of philosophical sound washes over the listener. Rather than securing the essence of four-measured standard hip-hop practices, Black Up stands as a monument for the experimental and tribal.
Between the rhyme schemes of Ishmael Butler, better known under as Palaceer Lazaro and the multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire work together to form Shabazz Palaces. If Salvador Dali’s paintings could speak and play music, they would resemble something to what Shabazz Palaces represents. The first cut off the record is “free press and curl” which takes the warping synths and 808’s as the main waves that Shabazz Palaces will ride into the darkest corners of underground hip-hop. It is production heavy, relying almost entirely on the walls of noise to draw an audience in, then making them stay with the lyrical content that is more alive and conscious than dead.
The thick vernacular creates a showcase that is dedicated to the Golden Age of Hip-Hop, but the flow of New Aged production sculpts a dichotomy between the environments. At one point, the conflicting nature becomes evident as “I run on feelings, fuck your facts, deception is the truest act. With poise, I twirl the bluest lack, Dougie hold the ooh-est sacks. I danced a move to play the back, I dipped she asked him, ‘Who was that?’” Hooks and repetition are not some of the key components to Black Up, instead, a thought-provoking display of poetic athleticism creates the whirlwind of replayability.
Then as the extract of women vocals that are chopped and sliced over ghostly apparitions of what would be percussion systems invokes a chilling, but capturing instrumental. The vocals which follow from Butler are necessary, cold, and fitting over the beat. “An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum” explores as a track, adopting an adventurous style with the product that is revitalizing in a strange sense. Butler describes, “All that diamond dust blowing up your hopes, flamboyant obstacles deals made to cope, wow. Embroidered truths, shot at all you soft niggas, ideas in recline, rise of the lost.” Shabazz Palaces are one of the closest representations of street vocal art that rocks with an impressive debut after two stunning mixtapes.
With complementary cover art, a stand-up proactive practice of delivery, and an overly abstract base, Shabazz Palaces create a new world within their sound. Black Up travels through a varied range of power and a canvas that is not always perfectly clear, but is always appealing and rewarding.