If you’ve followed this site over the past couple of years in particular, you’d know that I’ve written about the Seattle, WA-based hip-hop act, Shabazz Palaces on a number of occasions. After all, the group fronted by Ishmael Butler, of Digable Planets fame, may arguably be one of the sonically and lyrically ambitious and relentlessly experimental artists of not just hip-hop, but perhaps of contemporary indie music.
In an NPR interview about their latest effort, Lese Majesty, Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael Butler offered a challenge to contemporary hip-hop artists that could easily apply to just about any other contemporary artist. “This endeavor that I pursue, that we all pursue in Shabazz Palaces, make no mistake, this is an attack. We’re trying to show off and really stunt on all other rappers and let them know that this is our style, this is what we do and we’re ready to put it up against anybody else’s stuff.“ So in some way, it shouldn’t be surprising that Butler and his cohorts have crafted a sound that’s even more mind-altering than ever before. Layers of synth plays a prominent role on Lese Majesty but it’s paired with room-rattling bass that evoke an ethereal feverish nature balanced with a visceral earthy crunch.
"Motion Sickeness," Lese Majesty’s latest single is comprised of layers of undulating synths, electronic bloops and bleeps, while Butler becomes a storyteller, telling a harrowing tale about the struggles of addiction with a novelistic and empathetic attention to detail. In particular, I can picture the someone "spending money from all four pockets.”
The official video, directed by TEAN tells the story of a young, single mother and reality TV star, who moonlights as a drug dealer and struggles with her own addiction. As I watched the video, I was struck by the gritty and unflinching reality of the world the video portrays. Somehow, you can’t help but feel a complex array of shame. indignation, pity,