Album of the Month: Shabazz Palaces' 'Lese Majesty'
The Sub Pop hip-hop returned in July to take us on another cosmic voyage.
It's not the rallying cry here that it is in Austin and Portland, but Shabazz Palaces is doing everything in its power to keep Seattle weird. The hip-hop duo of Palaceer Lazaro (Ishmael Butler) and Fly Guy ‘Dai (Tendai Maraire) returns with its second Sub Pop LP, Lese Majesty, and it's another cosmic journey to the outer limits of rap's sonic space.
Shabazz Palaces breaks Lese Majesty's 18 tracks into seven suites, each with its own thematic push. While the album is digestible even if ignorant to these groupings, awareness of these divisions maximizes the experience and helps distinguish the interstellar road map Shabazz Palaces presents. Lyrics almost seem to spill out of Palaceer Lazaro in a methodical flowing free association rather than in any sort of straightforward narrative style, so having the suites defined with titles like "Pleasure Milieu" helps frame and suss out the substantive ideas of a sutie's tracks (in this case, "Divine of Form and "#Cake").
The trippy lyrics help color Shabazz Palaces' journeys, but it's the intricate and complex musical soundscapes that set the group apart in its own universe. While beats ground the music, all the rest of the electronics and instrumentations attempt to disconnect the listener from a normative earthly consciousness. Over the course of a single track—take "Forerunner Foray," for example—synths swell and digital flourishes can simulate weightless floating and the twinkling of distant stars, bass can thump in the chest like a xenomorph looking for escape, and the reverbered vocals echo like radio transmissions beamed into deep space.
While its not a critics job to prescribe how an album should be consumed, Shabazz Palaces warrants an exception. Lese Majesty isn't designed to be a soundtrack for summer block parties or daytime drives. Find a good pair of headphones. Head to a dark room. Lay down. Hit play. Then close your eyes and let Lese Majesty aurally whisk you away to an unknown dimension.
Shabazz Palaces: Lese Majesty Release Show
Aug 1 at 9, Neumos, $15