Black UpAlbum | Shabazz Palaces By Chris Payne
Old school alt-rapper gets Afro-futuristic.
"Well, they are from Seattle." Of the countless Sub Pop releases endorsed as such, the debut full-length from avant-garde hip-hop collective Shabazz Palaces could well be the most left field, a sparse, yet fascinating offering of schizophrenic hip-hop for the Def Jux/Rhymesayers set. Leader Ishmael Butler is no newcomer; known as Butterfly in '90s alt-rap stars Digable Planets, the MC has long dabbled in eccentric, jazzy stylings, although the sound of his new project is anything but retro. Perhaps the most striking attribute of Shabazz Palaces' hazy, stoner-approved rap is Butler's complete disregard for traditional hip-hop song structures. Forget the standard sixteen bars: Butler's idiosyncratic rhyming is just as unpredictable as the bizarre beats he's rapping over. At times, Black Up's ten tracks seem to mesh into one continuous trip, which isn't a bad thing at all. "Youlogy" and "Are You...Can You...Were You (Felt)" are arguably the album's best single tracks, but Black Up is best experienced as a whole. For those relishing 2011's futuristic R&B breakouts (Frank Ocean, The Weeknd), Black Up could prove to be one of hip-hop's biggest mind-openers.