Live Concert Photography: Knife Knights with Lando Chill Stas Thee Boss and Tron and DVD at The Knitting Factory 5/10/19
Throughout the bulk of this site’s almost nine-year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink on Seattle-based emcee, synth player, guitarist and producer Ishmael Butler, and as you may recall, Butler is best known as a co-founder of two, critically applauded, groundbreaking hip-hop acts and JOVM mainstays Digable Planets and Shabazz Palaces. Just about a decade ago, Butler was preparing to publicly emerge from several years of near-complete creative silence and in the summer of 2009, Shabazz Palaces quietly self-released a pair of EPs that quickly established the act’s unique sound and aesthetic: Butler’s hyper-literate verses full of complex inner and out rhyme schemes paired with psychedelic sonic textures and refracted rhythms. Initially, confidentiality was essential as Butler desperately wanted Shabazz Palaces to stand on its own strength and not on his long-held reputation, so he adopted a pseudonym for himself.
As Shabazz Palaces’ profile and network expanded, Butler recognized that he needed new monikers for his various creative pursuits and collaborations. Knife Knights, was the name that he devised for his work with the then-Seattle based engineer, producer, songwriter and film composer Erik Blood, who has also been a vital and important collaborator in the Shabazz Palaces Universe. Blood and Butler can trace their collaboration and friendship back to when they were introduced to each other at a Spiritualized show in 2003 through a mutual friend, whom Butler was about to record with. As the story goes, Blood was a diehard and obsessive Digable Planets fan, and as an obsessive fan, he passed along a bootleg copy Blowout Comb for the mutual friend to have Butler sign — and Butler dutifully did so.
Over the next few years, Blood and Butler would have chance encounters and sometimes during those encounters, they’d talk about possibly working together. Several years later, when Butler finally sent Blood a few songs to mix, their creative chemistry was obvious and immediate. That shouldn’t be surprising — Blood, as a huge hip-hop fan, has a always been an obsessive music listener and fan with eclectic tastes while Butler, a lifelong hip hop fan, began listening to and absorbing shoegaze and ambient soundscapes. Interestingly, every Shabazz Palaces album has featured a Blood and Butler collaboration, a collaboration that finds the duo specifically focused on and delighting at the intersection of shoegaze, ambient electronica and hip hop, actively and restlessly pushing hip hop towards new psychedelic textures. “He [Blood] takes my ideas and clarifies and pronounces them, helps me realize them,” explains Butler in press notes. “He helps me get to the essence.”
Knife Knight’s debut effort, 2018’s 1 Time Mirage came about after almost a decade of collaboration and the development of a very rich and dear friendship, and the album’s material finds the duo and a cast of collaborators and friends creating a unique, lysergic sound that meshes soul, shoegaze, hip-hop, drum ‘n’ bass, noise and chaos recorded over three separate sessions, interrupted by Shabazz Palaces and Digable Planets tour schedules and Blood’s recording projects.
Throughout the spring, the members of Knife Knights were on a lengthy North American tour to support their full-length debut and the tour included a stop at The Knitting Factory earlier this month. The bill was incredibly diverse array of hip-hop artists including the Chicago, IL-born, Tucson, AZ-based emcee and songwriter Lando Chill; the Seattle-based emcee and longtime Shabazz Palaces collaborator Stas Thee Boss, best known as being one-half of the acclaimed hip-hop soul act THEESatisifaction; and the Nyack, NY-based hip-hop act TRØN and DVD. Check out photos from the show back on May 10th below.
Lando Chill is a Chicago, IL-born, Tucson, AZ-based emcee and songwriter, who grew up with a choir and theater background. Interestingly, music wasn’t a serious option for the Chicago-born, Tucson-based artist — until, by chance, he was cast in a University of Arizona Film School short in 2013, in which he was taken to lend his voice. Since then he has seriously pursue music, writing and recording music that draws from the work of artists like Gil Scott-Heron, J. Cole, The Roots and others with his backing band, which features Chris “Deep Greasy” Pierce and Andy “Lasso” C.
Once comprised of emcee Stasia “Stas Thee Boss” Irons and vocalist Catherine “Cat” Harris-White, the acclaimed hip-hop soul duo THEESatisifaction can trace their origins to when the Harris-White and Irons were both students at the University of Washington. As the story goes, Irons used to frequent Harris-White’s appearances at a local open mic night, and Irons fell for Harris-White’s voice; in fact, Irons has publicity admitted that she would go to these open mic nights and blissfully zone out as Harris-White performed. After some time, Irons shored up the courage to approach Harris-White — and eventually, the duo began collaborating together.
Several years later, Irons and White caught the attention of Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire, who were busily bringing together their hometown’s most talented, up-and-coming Black, multi-disciplinary artists into a collaborative group and movement that the duo dubbed The Black Constellation. Unsurprisingly, the members of THEESatisifaction caught the attention of Sub Pop Records, and the renowned indie label signed Irons and Harris-White, before release their critically applauded albums awE naturalE and EarthEE.
Shortly after the release of EarthEE, THEESatisfaction split up with each member pursuing individual creative pursuits; in fact, Stas Thee Boss has gone to be a completely DIY artist, writing, composing beats, recording and producing her own material, pairing it with her dextrous, defiantly pro-Black lyrics.
The Nyack, NY-based hip-hop act TRØN and DVD cite the likes of Run The Jewels, K. Flay, Kid Cudi, Purity Ring and others as influences and since their formation back in 2009, the duo have played at a number of music festivals across the festival circuit including The Bamboozle and Vans Warped Tour — and they’ve played at venues all over the tri-state area on the bills of artists like Twenty One Pilots, Big Sean, Machine Gun Kelly, K. Flay, Oncue and Down With Webster.