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Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shabazz Palaces prove that U.S. hip-hop isn't dead just yet., 28 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Black Up (Audio CD)
It seems my ongoing frustrations over the state of U.S. hip-hop has made me miss Shabazz Palaces debut `Black Up', originally released in 2011. Shabazz Palaces is masterminded by the media-shy Palaceer Lazaro, more commonly known as Ishmael "Butterfly" Butler of 90′s New York hip-hop crew Digable Planets. `Black Up' is the first hip hop album ever to be released on legendary grunge label Sub Pop, times are certainly changing in the music business.

Lazarro's soulful musings about culture, identity, metaphysics and everything in-between is done in such an unpretentious manner, retaining a playfulness for wordplay which constantly engages you. The whole Shabazz package is bold and unusual, for what could be an alienating experience for the listener becomes as cosy and alluring as mulled wine on a winters day. Most tracks start very differently to how they end, the terrific opening "Free Press and Curl" starts defiantly with Lazarro rapping "Musically and bitch-wise, too/ I lost the best beat that I had" over some bass-heavy beats before slowing down the tempo and morphing into a retro-funk crawl. The following track `An Echo From The Hosts That Profess Infinitum' starts with a queasy low-end tempo and then from out of nowhere an African mbira solo appears before once again changing into a buzzing afro-psychedelic chant.

Shabazz Palaces have cultivated an afro-futuristic sound reminiscent of Shadow Huntaz and Anti-Pop Consortium, its an album of quietly considered sonic surprises. The music is an odd combination of sparse structures carefully balanced with often moody and bass-heavy beats, there's clearly been an influence from the bass-music productions common in the UK and Europe. But this album is no weighty experimental project for the head-nodders, Lazaro doesnt overindulge. Lazaro's varying speeds of delivery also impresses, he gets his message across with a precision and concision without losing any of its power. Theres a refreshing lack of the usual hip-hop bombast and ultra-competitive one-upmanship on `Black Up', Lazaro casts an unassuming assuredness to everything he has created, he avoids the tried and tested verse-chorus structure and pools an unpredictable source of rhymes, rhythms and beats.

"Clear some space out so we can space out." is an apt line from `Recollections Of The Wraith' which exemplifies the tone of `Black Up', an often unconventional and trippy journey into the unknown with the promise of good times. Palaceer Lazaro has been very clever in the way he has created an accessible and innovative album that makes you think as much as it makes you move, Shabazz Palaces prove that U.S. hip-hop isn't dead just yet.
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Location: Brighton

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