Photo by Alex Crick
“Noir not withstanding.” Black Up. You don’t need to take tips from Shabazz Palaces’ titles to become aware that their music is murky, lampless Seattle rap (no Mix-A-Lot). When you dwell in a permanent mist, songs often assume a suffocating bass and aggression (see also: London). But unlike most of their peers, Ish is a strong enough songwriter to make his over-the-top attacks seem subtle — or as subtle as one can get when your song titles read like a McSweeney’s parody.
While most of their Sub Pop debut dwells in the dungeons of rap (where they presumably still keep WTO protest0rs), Shabazz conclude the record on a surprisingly sunny note. Cue “Swerve… The reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)” The bass could still make birds fall out of the sky and Ish is still talking about “dynamic electromagnetic style missiles (whistles?).” But midway through, a strain of Baduzim floats through the air, with a female vocalist cooing about the benefits of knowledge and souls unwinding. Of all the tracks they’ve released, this might be the most stylistically indebted to Blowout Comb-era Digable Planets. And if that doesn’t sound appealing, you probably need to listen to that record again.