Shabazz Palaces “Black Up” – Music Review

Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
Record Label – Sub Pop

The Seattle duo Shabazz Palaces released Black Up; a follow up to two EPs released in the summer of 2009. Black Up was released in June of 2011. The duo consists of Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire. Ishmael has enjoyed previous musical success in the group Digable Planets.

What makes this album so interesting is a combination of many different elements. The record itself consists of ten tracks, however all these tracks blend together seamlessly giving the listener the impression they are listening to one 35 minute long song. A secondary element that makes this recording so rare is the blending of genres of jazz and hip hop, which can be both heard on many of the tracks.

One thing that stuck out to me on this album was the repetitive patterns the lyrics were used in, creating almost a reverent chant on many of the tracks. This is especially true on the standout track, Are you… Can you…. Were you?, whose chorus is the repetition of the phrase “it’s a feeling”. This track also contains very simple instrumentation which amplifies the lyrics of the rap. One criticism I had for the album was I found some of the derogatory language used in the lyrics took away from the overall listenability of the songs.

I would recommend this album to anyone who is a fan of Shabazz Palaces’ previous releases, along with any fan of Ishmael Butler’s previous work in Digable Planets. I would also recommend this for any fan of experimental hip hop or jazz-influenced rap.