In an NPR interview about their latest effort, Lese Majesty, Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael Butler has offered something of challenge to contemporary emcees and hip-hop artists and to a me-centric/material goods-centric culture which seems to encourage mindless commercialism. “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,” Butler has said.
And with Shabazz Palaces, Butler and his cohorts have crafted a mind-altering sound that bears comparisons to falling down the proverbial rabbit hole, and as I’ve mentioned one than once, like discovering an alternate universe where the known laws of physics don’t consistently apply. As you’ll hear on Lese Majesty’s latest single “They Come In Gold,” layers upon layers of synth come into play and the material manages to evoke a sense of a waking, feverish dream – of the sort where you’re left to wonder if you’ve seen what you’ve really seen. But despite it’s ethereal nature, it manages to have sledgehammered beats that bring things back down to Earth’s gravitational pull every now and then,
This single is one of my favorite tracks off the album as it manages to display Butler’s insane flow – his rhyme schemes are like Dada-esque paintings in the sense that there they manage to be at times incredibly complex and at times deceptively simple. Check out the line where he refers to Moby Dick “Ish dances with the White Whale on the Pequod.” You try battling someone who says that and I guarantee you’ll lose.
But more important, Lese Majesty continues Butler and company’s reputation for being sonically ambitious artists, who are relentlessly experimental. Sure, it’s challenging but it’s rewards are manifold as multiple listens reveal deeper nuance.