The storied Seattle hip-hop group Shabazz Palaces have returned with a new album called Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star, their first since 2014’s excellent Lese Majesty, and their third album including the duo’s 2011 debut Black Up. Of course, Shabazz wasn’t the start of a career in music for either Ishmael Butler (aka Palaceer Lazaro in Shabazz’s world and formerly Butterfly of Digable Planets) or his partner, multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire, who was born into a music family as the son of Dumisani Maraire, a master performer of the traditional African instrument the mbira.
As far as regional scenes go, the Pacific Northwest has always struggled to be taken as seriously as other hotbeds like New York, LA and Atlanta, but Shabazz Palaces have helped shine the spotlight on the rainy area tenfold, not only through their own excellence but by seeking out and supporting the talented generation below them.
Gangster Star‘s lead single “Shine A Light,” is above, and it features Thaddillac. The lyric video was co-directed by Cristina T. Bercovitz and Jonathan Snipes of Clipping. It comes off as more traditional or “pop” than some of the grittier, experimental sounds the group has pursued in the past, but even with its soulful underpinnings, the song pushes out toward the cosmic darkness Shabazz’s music has always surged into.
The rest of the album is crammed with features from other big names — and more obscure ones — that Shabazz count as members of their cohort: Julian Casablancas, Thundercat, Darrius Willrich, Gamble and Huff, Loud Eyes Lou, Fly Guy Dai, Stu Levine & The Jennings Sisters, Ahmir, Jon Kirby, Sunny Levine, and Blood all appear here.
According to the press release, the entire album was recorded in about two weeks in Seattle with Blood, and it was inspired by days spent in Southern California, still guided by the viewpoint of an alien outsider seeking to understand what fuels the movements down here on earth. If this sunniness and sci-fi sensibilities sound like they might be a little too much, simply press play above and discover that they are not at all, instead, several listens in, the Shabazz philosophy begins to sound like the only thing that makes sense.
Look for Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star out this summer, 7/14 via Sub Pop Records. Pre-order it here.