We are. We can. We were. (That’s a reference to a Shabazz Palaces song with a title that ends in “…(Felt).”) And there’s reason to believe we will be again. Maybe even more so. Apologies for the abstruseness, but it befits the shadowy Seattle hip-hop avant-gardeists, who’ve shared the first track from their upcoming album Lese Majesty. “They Come in Gold” (via Pitchfork) comes at a moment when the culture just might be perfectly teed up for their cryptic beat prophesies.
The initial offering from Shabazz Palaces’ July 29 Sub Pop double-LP finds a harsh yet lulling headiness that finds some Holy Grail middle-ground between member Palaceer Lazaro’s beloved ’90s boho-rap outfit Digable Planets and the noise-rap of Death Grips. Unsettling voice-like loops and strident drum-machine claps give way to a warm bath of synths and blues-guitar fills, an off-kilter sub-bass heartbeat beneath throughout. The slippery lyrics would rank well on that chart of rappers’ vocabularies — did we hear “sepulchre”? — and come across with an almost cat-like confidence: “We converse in the ancient languages” flows into “one picture’s worth a thousand swerves.” There’s no Cheshire grin, though, more like Mona Lisa.
The group’s 2011 debut Black Up was an enigmatic art-rap masterpiece in its own right, finding a place among SPIN’s best albums of that year. But “Gold” gives hope their sophomore outing will only be meaner. Last year, Light in the Attic imprint Modern Classics reissued 1994’s Blowout Comb, giving a new audience a chance to catch up on the rapper whose real name is Ishmael Butler. And Shabazz Palace’s hometown has already made a star out of one rap outfit, with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis climbing to massive commercial sucess and Grammy as the Seattle Seahawks romped in the Super Bowl. After all that, it’s easy to a more elusive, experimental hip-hop group finding a ready and receptive audience.
The vinyl version of Lese Majesty comes with a “Shark skin” bemossed jacket, a poster, and a side-four etching. Pre-order via Sub Pop and get a limited-edition “Loser” version on purple vinyl. That incldues a seven-inch of non-album track “The Palace Slide,” backed by that track’s instrumental. Produced by Shabazz Palaces, the album features not just group members Palaceer Lazaro (Digable Planets’ Butler) and Tendai Maraire, but also their Black Constellation collaborators, among them THEESatisfaction’s Catherine Harris-White, Erik Blood, and Thadillac. The album recently premiered at a Seattle laser light show, according to The Stranger.
Hear “They Come in Gold” below, and scroll down to check out the seven-suite (!) track list and Shabazz Palaces’ cryptic statement to Pitchfork.
Lese Majesty track list:
Suite 1: The Phasing Shift
1. “Dawn In Luxor”
2. “Forerunner Foray”
3. “They Come In Gold”
Suite 2: Touch & Agree
4. “Solemn Swears”
5. “Harem Aria”
6. “Noetic Noiromantics”
7. “The Ballad of Lt. Major Winnings”
Suite 3: Palace War Council Meeting
10. “Down 155th in the MCM Snorkel”
Suite 4: Pleasure Milieu
11. “Divine of Form”
Suite 5: Federal Bureau Boys
13. “Colluding Oligarchs”
14. “Suspicion of a Shape”
Suite 6: High Climb To The Gallows
15. “Mind Glitch Keytar Theme”
16. “Motion Sickness”
Suite 7: Murkings On The Oxblood Starway
17. “New Black Wave”
18. “Sonic Myth Map For the Trip Back”
Herein bumps and soars Lese Majesty, the new sonic action of Shabazz Palaces. Honed and primal, chromed and primo. A unique and glorified offering into our ever-uniforming musical soundscape. Lese Majesty is a beatific war cry, born of a spell, acknowledging that sophistication and the instinctual are not at odds; Indeed an undoing of the lie of their disparate natures.
Lese Majesty is not a launching pad for the group’s fan base increasing propaganda. It is a series of astral suites of recorded happenings, shared. A dare to dive deep into Shabazz Palaces sounds, vibrations unfettered. A dope-hex thrown from the compartments that have artificially contained us all and hindered our sublime collusion.
These reveries were sent to Palaceer Lazaro and Fly Guy ‘Dai in the year of gun beat battles in excess; In a succession of days, whilst walking in dreams and in varied transcendental states….(every minute of every day is filled with observation and composition. In action). Songs are committed and gathered by robots at Protect and Exalt Labs, a Black Space in Seattle, Washington.
The visual features of Lese Majesty are resultant of the gleanings of fellow Constellationaire, Nep Sidhu.
The Black Constellation squads up, protects and exalts the messages within, and colludes accordingly. We thank you.