We’re Not Worthy: Shabazz Palaces Transmit

Crater-causing music from the Seattle duo for the Adult Swim Singles series.
By    August 18, 2015


Thomas Johnson vacations on Jupiter moons.

Shabazz Palaces have had been relatively quiet since Lese Majesty, doubtlessly posted up in Babylon sipping ambrosia, directing the tides and rotation of the moon. What little contact they’ve had with the world outside their own has resulted in the visuals to “Foreunner Foray,” and the incomparably named “Ham Sandwich.” This week they released, in accordance to their pact with Adult Swim to watch over our universe, “The Mystery of Lonnie the Døn.”

“Otherworldly” is a term applied far too often to describe what is often just marginally difficult to explain, but rarely is it used to accurately illustrate what a true oddity is. 2011’s Black Up hinted at Ishmael as Palaceer Lazaro and Tendai “Baba” Maraire’s quest to transcend what sounds planetary mortals can produce. Last year’s stunning if not confounding Majesty, fittingly premiered at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center Laser Dome, launching the shuttle out of our atmosphere. “Lonnie The Døn” is the first transmission NASA’s picked up since their departure. Otherworldly is cliché, call this post-earth.

The truth lays in the title. Lonnie Don may be central to the theme, but mystery defines everything around it. A brief narrative takes place, chrome water whips, the titular don stays rich in his kitchen amid dripping champagne and new age lynching’s.

What little details presented are given sparingly, drowning in the hiss and smoke that has become the duo’s M-O. For the most part, Lazaro’s mumbles become inaudible, which is fine. Shabazz Palaces have rarely been traditional, and straightforwardness in rap is nothing if not traditional. About halfway through Ish chants the name “Dante” before succumbing to the quietly expanding drop/upheaval that can only be described as a western wind being captured and recorded while Kanye and Evian Christ perform experiments on it and set it loose. There’s about four different sets of what were once high hats too.

This is music meant to be heard in a flying saucer, but you can settle for a museum or a decent pair of headphones. None of it makes a whole lot of sense, but the outcome leaves you wanting to figure out the conundrum it presents. Maybe Shabazz Palaces are spelling out our inevitable downfall, maybe they’re hinting at our salvation. We might never know, nor might we ever be ready. That’s for Palaceer and Baba to beam down and us to find out.

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