Late last month, the Seattle rap duo Shabazz Palaces debuted new material at the Pacific Science Center. I wish I had been there. Since forming sometime around 2009, they’ve made some of the most interesting music in the city, full stop. Pitchfork and other national music pubs have paid attention since the group’s inception.
That’s good. Seattle has earned the reputation for being middle of road, culturally speaking. And while Shabazz Palaces doesn’t rep the city as loudly as that other rap duo, I do prefer them as musical representatives for Seattle, however obscure they might be in comparison to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. False dichotomy? Least interesting thing about Shabazz Palaces? OK.
So what does this new stuff sound like? The answer is quite similar to their previous full-length release Black Up. “They Come in Gold” features the deep, robotic grooves characteristic of the group backed with philosophical but easy flowing verses from lyricist Ishmael Butler.
Press releases make for dull reading most of the time. Here again, Shabazz Palaces do things differently. Their statement about the new album, Lese Majesty, is a little slice of pop-spiritual philosophizing that wouldn’t be out of place on the liner notes of a Sun Ra LP.
Herein bumps and soars Lese Majesty, the new sonic action of Shabazz Palaces. Honed and primal, chromed and primo. A unique and glorified offering into our ever-uniforming musical soundscape. Lese Majesty is a beatific war cry, born of a spell, acknowledging that sophistication and the instinctual are not at odds; Indeed an undoing of the lie of their disparate natures.
Lese Majesty is not a launching pad for the group’s fan base increasing propaganda. It is a series of astral suites, recorded happenings, shared. A dare to dive deep into Shabazz Palaces sounds, vibrations unfettered. A dope-hex thrown from the compartments that have artificially contained us all and hindered our sublime collusion.
These reveries were sent to Palaceer Lazaro and Fly Guy ‘Dai in the year of gun beat battles in excess; In a succession of days, whilst walking in dreams and in varied transcendental states….(every minute of every day is filled with observation and composition. In action). Songs are committed and gathered by robots at Protect and Exalt Labs, a Black Space in Seattle, Washington.
The visual features of Lese Majesty are resultant of the gleanings of fellow Constellationaire, Nep Sidhu.
The Black Constellation squads up, protects and exalts the messages within, and colludes accordingly. We thank you.
According to the label, the album is structured as series of suites rather discrete pieces of music. Unusual for hip-hop, sure, but similar to how the group as always written their music. And while the new track doesn’t break new ground for them, it still proves that Shabazz Palaces are still one of the most unique bands working in hip-hop today. Listening to them means entering into a unique aesthetic space, an afrofuturistic universe where sound worlds intersect according to their own mysterious laws. Lese Majesty is definitely something to look forward to.