Seattle’s avant-rap luminaries Palaceer Lazaro and Baba Maraire hand over the keys to the palace. May the beat save our plastic souls.
Ask the members of Shabazz Palaces why they make music and they bluntly state they’ll never know. Their often trance-like sonic vision resembles a subconscious sprint through centuries of ancient mythology, the African-American struggle for empowerment, l’art pour l’art principles and the history of experimental music. And although the palaces were constructed as an entity open to all sides, Shabazz Palaces is essentially the brainchild of Ishmael Butler, AKA Palaceer Lazaro (formerly known as Butterfly from jazz rap pioneers Digable Planets), and multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire (son of Mbira legend Dumisani Maraire). Following the disbanding of Digable Planets, Butler left New York City for his hometown of Seattle to engage himself in even deeper journeys into sound. On several self-released EPs, and albums for Seattle staple Sub Pop, Shabazz Palaces has forged a musical universe pretty much unheard of. While channeling the spiritual phase of jazz greats like John Coltrane and Sun Ra alongside experimental underground rap and the immediacy of repetitive electronic music, the group always manages to keep a raw edge; the lyrics draw inspiration from everything from afrofuturism to the forgotten elegance of an Adrian Peterson run in order to decipher the dead end that can be rap braggadocio. In this Fireside Chat, Lazaro and Maraire discuss time and sound, early epiphanies, instincts, musical heritage and their Black Constellation collective.