The Joup Friday Album: Shabazz Palaces ‘Black Up’

030911-2_1up [Converted]As if coming in out of nowhere or a distant alien planet spreading its word of love and peace; Shabazz Palaces debut album ‘Black Up” is an anomaly. From its borderline acid jazz-centric beats to its otherworldly production and long song titles, this is not your typical hip-hop record. This is not a record bent on dealing memorable hooks and lyrics with memorable beats (which it still does exceptionally well). Black Up is an examination of just how experimental and avant garde hip hop can be. Black Up hit in 2011, around the same time two other mad scientists of experimental hip hop saw their creations take flight in the forms of Death Grips and Clipping (two artistz Kanye West borrowed heavily from for the sound of his ‘Yeezus’ record), while those artists reveled in the abrasive, near punk rock side of hip hop, Palaces decided to dwell in another realm: making ethereal, dreamy music with lyrics that peered more at the beauty of life than the ugly sides of society. This is a style they’ve displayed exceptionally well for 4 records now, but never better than on this debut record.

The progression of how Shabazz Palaces came to be really isn’t much of a surprising one. Comprised of two members, musician Tendai “Baba” Maraire and former member of the seminal 90’s hip hop group Digable Planets; Ishmael Butler. Butler had been dormant for quite awhile – ever since Digable Planets disbanded in the 90’s –  but he hoped back onto the scene in a big way with this project. Comparing the two, Shabazz Palaces is a logical step forward from the work Butler was doing with Planets, who were already delivering jazz-centric rap with a positive loving message in the groups lyrical content. In that way Shabazz Palaces comes off exactly like it is: the older, wiser version of a former project, an artist now more inclined to take sonic risks.

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Right from the get go this album takes no time in establishing the sonic world it wants to create. Opener “Free Press and Curl” is an amazing start to the record and perfectly gives the listener a taste of what Shabazz Palaces are all about. The beat on this track is wild and frenetic but hypnotizing at the same time. When Butler raps the chorus, simply “I’m Free”, you as the listener should feel that way too, giving in to the sound and forgetting your troubles. This spacious feeling is executed again in great detail on tracks like “Are You…Can You….Were You” and “Recollections of the Wraith,” saving some of the more lively hook-centric tracks for the back-end of the album, like the propulsive and damn near menacing, “Yeah You” and the hooky as hell album closer “Swerve…” At only 36 minutes in length, this album is a pretty short trip but one I assure you you’ll want to go on again right after you finish it the first time.

Katie, hey what’s up? I’m tagging you for next week.

Listen to Black Up below from Sub Pop Records:

Daniel R. Fiorio

Writer, blogger, record collector/music fanatic, comic book junkie, jerkstore/all around nice dude from the south suburbs of Chicago

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