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Shabazz Palace From Seattle to AfroFunk

Shabazz Palaces is a wonderful duo of Afropunk Futurism, their latest album Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star, is by far a collective work of artistry that constructs the outer-linings of inundated creativity. Ishmael Butler, 48, and Porter Ray, 28, collaboratively have created a beautiful cornucopias sound of old meets new hip-hop. Their essence personifies their musical and cultural identities, just looking at the duo makes you know something mystical will materialize, and I must say appearances speak truth to the matter. Shabazz Palaces delivers a hermetical index of soulful music that is bombastic funk, rich rhythmic instrumental interludes, and homophony syllabic beats often prorogued to an undercurrent of the accompaniment.

Aside from creating amazing music, the duo is also part of Black Constellation, a collective of visual artists, fashion designers, and musicians. Outside of making powerful music, the group also host “Black Weirdo” parties in Seattle, Toronto, New York, and Minneapolis. Straight from Central District Seattle, they define their upbringing as a small town feel, where everyone knew everyone’s family by name. Central District, history does not seem so sweet as the found memories of the duo recoil. It is the definition of American Apartheid, a largely Black neighborhood developed after generations of redlining; the practice of preventing African American access, and the opportunity to obtain loans, mortgages, or property in White neighborhoods. In recent years, Central District has been uprooted to gentrification, similar circumstances to Harlem, D.C., and many other Black neighborhoods abound the nation. Emphatically, their identity is tightly intertwined with the cultural identity of the neighborhood, transmission of going from a Black community to a gentrified state of cultural alloy. This access to diversity has intensely colored Shabazz’s creativity, which is heard throughout their music.

Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star makes me reminiscence back to the 90s when I would sneak to listen to my big brother’s hip-hop tapes. You know, the ones so perversely erotic and blatant vulgar that they offended your mother. In my brother’s case, he hid them in a shoebox in his closet. Not so evasively as that my sister and I stealthy discovered them, and would play them softly on his giant faux-wood sound system, with subwoofer, that I could never figure out how to work. While I can remember very few of the words to any of the songs, which in part is probably a good thing, what I do recall are the sensation of hemiola, as if the beats and the rap were two different songs juxtaposed rhythmically creating a song on its own. When Cats Claw and Eel Dreams, have the funk vibe of George Clinton with the feel of a DMC classic track. Shabazz Palaces recreates these furtive moments of my childhood in their suffusions of melody and backing is a binary palpation. I long for my brother tapes, if for nothing to hear them as an adult and admix the tangled acoustics.

The intro to Since C.A.Y.A., The Nuerochem Mixologue, and That’s How City Life Goes showcase the refined instrumental identity of Shabazz Place, with permeating instrumentation as an empyreal state of matter that allows you to escape the mundanely of Ego’s thoughts and ascend into mindfulness. The sustenance of the ever so prevalent instrumental interludes, with such great thought and motive; these pieces are best described as meditative. In these moments, I forget I am listening to hip-hop and am driven to grunge warehouse parties in the city, moving in sync with brimming beats. Where trance music keeps you light and alpine, Shabazz Palaces grounds you into a stimulation of effortless seduction. I can sensationally identify a variety of genres within each track, from hip-hop, electronica, trance, and soul, their music pulsates the historical lineage of the American music, Black music. In knowing that they are signed to Sub Pop, a Seattle-based indie label best known for grunge bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden, and in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s,

The two stand out tracks for me are: That’s How City Like Goes and Moon Whip Quaz. If you love 80s rock, these two songs are definitely the tracks for you. That’s How City Like Goes is a dubiety of Trance meets Prince, and strangely the duality is sestina. The humdrum aphonic opening is likened to the haunting soundtrack of your favorite old school horror movie, yet it billows into your ear sweetly creating a bucolic sensation. It then callously moves into a refrain, which could soffit as a bonus track on Purple Rain. It’s duality is pointed as the title defines; city life can be as banal as it is fast-paced and as quick as the day starts it ends. Moon Whip Quaz has a George Clinton meets funk feel, it submerges you into the instrumental backing, with rap leads that land as melodic poetry precluding in a dislodged space from which is difficult to determine where the backing starts and the melody begins. I try not to differentiate between the lines of coloration and embrace the overlapping subliminal cohesion of sound. While these two songs are by far my favorite, the whole album is a capsule of merriment and penchant joy that allows me to jubilantly celebrate the historical lineage of Afro-Music.

Shabazz Palace are a vessel of what experimental hip-hop, who set a preeminent of the Renaissance. Celebrating the historical lineage of Black artistry from various genres and eras, and uniquely newfangled, they construct music that is equally thematic as it is soulful. Most importantly Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star easily glissades from summer to fall, an opalescence that can shimmer on the brightest Summer days to the piquant of a rainy Fall day. Their music will take you on an old school ride of music history that comparatively, I have never experienced from a hip-hop album.   Most importantly is the level of taste and subtlety in which they cohere melody to bass lines. Clearly, I strongly recommend we all take a listen to Shabazz Palace’s latest LP, but what are your thoughts?

Check out the full album below and follow Shabazz Palaces on Instagram.


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