Google Artist of the Week: Shabazz Palaces

Each week, Magnifier selects an Antenna Google Artist of the Week. These are our favorite artists, and are handpicked by our team of music experts. All the music on Magnifier can be added to your Music Beta library for free.

It’s a wonder that Shabazz Palaces exist at all. The group led by Palaceer Lazaro – formerly known as Ishmael Butler of Digable Planets – stand in defiance to hip-hop’s ongoing fascination with acquiring money and fame at all costs. Their music is a “ghetto sound sprawl,” an exotic blend of dread bass, flutes and thumb pianos, New Age poetry and experimental hip-hop. However, Lazaro’s lyrics are strikingly direct, as he advocates the virtues of radical progressivism and non-conformity.

"Swerve..." Shabazz Palaces

"Echo..." Shabazz Palaces

"Recollections..." Shabazz Palaces

Don’t get it twisted: Shabazz Palaces want the power, too. On their two 2009 EPs, Shabazz Palaces and Of Light, Lazaro angrily railed against modern hip-hop culture and its nation of young-and-willing sellouts. The tone shifts on the group’s new album Black Up, as Lazaro celebrates his newfound success while cautiously outlining its boundaries. Songs like “Are You… Can You… Were You? (Felt)” sound buoyant, with piano arpeggios and cascading synths that evoke the feeling of epiphany, a breakthrough. “We run the latest theorems,” he brags on “Swerve… the reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding).” Other times, Lazaro seems conflicted by the prospect of a potentially wider audience and its corrupting influence. “You think I’m selfish, exist only to wish on stars?” he asks on “An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum.” “But who do you think you are?”

This ambivalence is understandable as Lazaro has been down this road before. As Butterfly, one-third of ‘90s Brooklyn bohos Digable Planets, he won a 1994 Grammy Award for the group’s jazz-rap classic “Rebirth of Slick (cool like dat).” But they were often misunderstood, too -- dismissed as cutesy dilettantes instead of forward-thinkers who explored urban cultural idioms. (Lazaro continues to mount Digable Planets tours with Craig “Doodlebug” Irving; Mary Ann “Ladybug” Vierra split from the group in 2009.) Lazaro’s early 2000s recordings under the alias Cherrywine were completely ignored.

Now based in Seattle, Lazaro’s latest project represents a fresh start. Shabazz Palaces is both his individual venture and a collective of musicians that includes songwriter and producer Erik Blood (who mixed and mastered Black Up) and gender-bending duo THEESatisfaction (who recently signed to Sub Pop as a separate act).

“New off the spaceship / Dipped in punctuation,” Lazaro marvels on “Recollections of the wraith.” “Dilemma of this bitch-ass cliché rap’s getting solved.” Despite the odds, Shabazz Palaces have snuck an extra slice of cake. -- Mosi Reeves

"Swerve..." Shabazz Palaces

"Echo..." Shabazz Palaces

"Recollections..." Shabazz Palaces


Thiago Avelino said...

very very good sound said...

Buy this album. You will *not* be disappointed. :)

Ishmael said...

It's nice to here some stuff from the the Digable crew, thanks a lot
- keep on keeping on.

Sound Verite said...

Shabazz Places reinvent the game agian, welcome back Butterfly.

Jamboarder said...

So excited for this from Laz. Miss my Diggables, but this is good stuff.

estevan carlos benson said...

This is some good ish.

Unknown said...

So excited they got mentioned! I'll be sure to follow the Artists of the week

Jlo5566 said...

This is good stuff, Simple beats. But that's the point!

Darwin said...

I like it--simple, clear, direct.

Boyd B said...

I can't believe I ignored this in my free music list. Digable Planets was the ish and Shabazz Palaces looks to be no less. I just purchased this album. Thanks Google!

Anonymous said...

how come the album isn't online to purchase...only 3 free songs?

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