“Far out”⎯ this 1960s counter culture phrase could have never anticipated the sublime psychedelia of otherworld hip hop artists, Shabazz Palaces.
Shabazz Palaces is comprised of Ishamel Butler and Tendai Maraire. Butler has been expanding the possibilities of hip hop since the 1990s when he co-founded the legendary Digable Planets. Butler has found in Maraire an accomplished artist that brings a deep understanding of African instrumentation to Shabazz. Overall, Shabazz Palaces is more unpredictable and sonically adventurous than Digable’s neo-soul-jazz-inflected beats, but equally as likely to make your body move.
Shabazz Palaces blessed the Casbah with a DJ set Sunday evening. Ishmael took the stage wearing a Sun Ra t-shirt expressing his black avant-garde roots. He gave testimony to those roots by dropping fervid hypnotic sounds from his MacBook: There was J Dilla era Slum Village blended with staccato flourishes from wood instruments, references to Eric Dolphy and more recent experimentalists like Suzi Analogue and dark 1980s synthpop.
Maraire’s half of the set honored the dance ambiance of a nightclub by spinning creative reimaginations of Fela Kuti and A Tribe Called Quest songs. After his set, Maraire and I chopped it up about our mutual love of the stogie and the continuing relevance of African pop legend Fela.
If you haven’t checked these cats yet it’s time for you to get woke. It is incredible that Ishmael in particular has stayed so interesting and artistically restless for this long and found a complimentary partner like Maraire. Like Miles Davis and Sun Ra, Shabazz Palaces is the quintessence of black experimental cool.