Shabazz Palaces
12" Vinyl lp D
Sub Pop / sp900

Image of the Record Front Side
Image of the Record Back Side

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After two fine EPs. the experimental hip-hop project helmed by former Digable Planets leader Ishmael Butler steps out with a full album release. >Black Up<. In Black Up. Shabazz Palaces prove that great albums can be built on the platform of complete sonic diversity. Includes code for free digital download of this album.

This approach is made clear from the opening track, "free press and curl." Characterized by alternating levels of bass and a sample that can be best described as convoluted, due the way the female vocals seem to fold in on themselves before rising in pitch. At the 3 minute mark the track ends, then reincarnates itself. Tacked onto the end of the song, a new track opens with the great line, "Thou shall bask in the light of my home screen glow." This "song" is only a minute long, and is just as good as the material it's sandwiched between. This is a strategy that's repeated through the record, and one that represents just how full of ideas this rap crew is.

Keeping the project somewhat grounded are the rhymes of Lazaro, just because what he is doing can be easily recognized as rapping, while the instrumentals are so dynamic they recall the far reaches of modern experimental hip-hop.

That's not to say his rapping is consistently conventional. The rhymes on this album are dense, but often fun - a tough line to walk for any rapper that he's able to handle the challenge with apparent ease. The lyrics themselves seem to ride a pendulum between being occasionally brilliant bits of wordplay, and a call back to hip-hop classicism in terms of simple rhymes and familiar content. However, whenever the rapping could be treading well-worn territory Palaceer changes the formula, delivering it in such a way that affirms that the last thing Shabazz Palaces want to be is predictable.

All of this serves to make great hip-hop. As odd as the music is, alternating between spacious and heady to dense and dark, this album is straight hip-hop. It's singularly concerned with technically great rapping and hard-hitting beats. It's hard to recognize it as such, though, because it doesn’t sound like any other hip-hop album that’s out
(added: 2011-07-25 12:30:41 )
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