For SF WEEKLY: Hip-hop’s “golden age,” said to be from the mid-to late-’80s through the early- to mid-’90s, is widely credited as innovative, eclectic in its use of samples, eccentric, and political. Many said hip-hop had another much needed artistic revival by the time 2010 rolled around: The music of Tyler, the Creator and Kendrick Lamar is miles away from what Jay-Z and Lil Wayne were churning out around the same time.
At both of these celebrated moments, Ishmael Butler has been an active participant.
First, Butler rapped as Butterfly in Digable Planets, a ’90s jazz-rap group distinguished by their collaboration with producer King Britt – their 1993 single, “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” won a Grammy. By the end of the 2000s, Butler quietly re-emerged as “Palaceer Lazaro” in the group Shabazz Palaces, a haunting, experimental hip-hip project signed to Sub Pop that has largely won over critics: elements of soul, funk, and Afrofuturism echo throughout songs that can bleed into each other with no clear beginning or end. Radio-friendly, mainstream hip-hop this is not.
Shabazz Palaces – which is Butler and Tendai Maraire – release a new LP, Lese Majesty, this week. The album features contributions from THEESatisfaction’s Catherine Harris-White, Erik Blood, and Thadillac. Butler, tight-lipped with the press, issued a statement about the album, simply calling it a “series of astral suites of recorded happenings, shared…a dope-hex thrown from the compartments that have artificially contained us all and hindered our sublime collusion.”
photo courtesy of Shabazz Palaces