Avant-garde and abstract musical expression tend to catch my attention. It’s nice to listen to the basic form of certain genres such as hip-hop and r&b, but it’s always innovative when an artist brings a new expression to table. Musical expression should essentially be about letting go of all inhibitions and creating musical works that are parallel to breathtaking works of visual art.
I’ve always been one to pride myself on opening up my mind, body, and soul to new things, so when I ran across music that dissimilar to everything I hear on the radio (when I actually listen to it once in a blue moon) then I immediately have to research the artist, the overall movement, and spread the word. So if you haven’t heard of Shabazz Palaces and the experimental hip-hop sounds that mark the success of this hip-hop duo from Seattle, then you need to check out their album Black Up.
Seattle has seriously made a name for itself on the hip-hop scene, but I’ve got to say that by far Shabazz Palaces is the most experimental collective out of the city. Do you remember Digable Planets and their hit 90s tracks, including the timeless song “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like That)”? Well I personally have always been a huge fan of Digable Planets and that song has been my anthem on many occasions. So when I found out that Butterfly from Digable Planets aka Ishmael Butler (also known as Palaceer Lazaro) was part of the duo Shabazz Palaces, I immediately knew the music was going to be on point.
The duo is made up of Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire, an instrumentalist that is widely responsible for the avant-garde hip-hop expression on the duo’s album Black Up. The album explores abstract rhythms, but still has solid rhymes that are innovative, deep, and refreshing. Black Up isn’t a swag fest, it’s a collection of tracks that are revolutionary in spirit. I’ve also got to give the group props for diving into such musical experimentation that causes the listener to be on edge awaiting the next genius experiment. When you listen to the tracks you honestly have no idea what direction the song could take; creating music that is mysterious is something Shabazz Palaces is exceptional at. Upon listening to their tracks I find myself wondering what will happen next. Perhaps some spoken word by Gil Scott Heron? Or maybe some African drums infused with dreamlike synths. You just never know what will happen next, which is what makes experimental hip-hop so intriguing.
If you aren’t accustomed to experimental hip-hop, then the video below might take awhile to get used to. The avant-garde visuals infused with abstract beats and rhymes create a vibe that is beautifully trippy. Yes, it’s trippy. You have to just let your ears take in every beat without hesitation and enjoy the excitement of not knowing what is next. It’s basically like a science of experiment, and those tend to be dangerously fun. Except there isn’t any danger involved in listening to the sounds of Shabazz Palaces and their album Black Up. In this experiment the danger element is removed and it’s replaced by deep revelations that propel the experiment forward with every instrument and lyric. Shabazz Palaces, bringing forth the best in experimental hip-hop since 2009, courtesy of Sub Pop record label.
If your ready for an avant-garde experimentation of music, then check out the short film below for the album Black Up.
©Jasmine McGee.ThinkSoul25. http://thinksoul25.com