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480px-Lese_MajestyLUMPENPROLETARIAT    Check out the second album by Shabazz Palaces entitled, Lese Majesty, recorded between 2012 and 2014 and published by the Sub Pop record label in 2014.  I missed Shabazz Palaces in 2011.  But I was fortunate enough to attend Shabazz Palace‘s San Francisco Bay Area stop with my brother when they toured Lese Majesty in 2014.  When they hit the Bay Area, they played at The New Parish in Oakland.  That was an awesome show.

The first time I saw Ishmael perform was with Digable Planets at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA, when Digable Planets opened for Sade during their 1994 Love Deluxe Tour. [1]  Opening for Sade, Digable Planets performed with an acoustic jazz band accompaniment as well as their DJ on the ones and twos.  The following year, in 1995, I was fortunate enough to catch their headlining show at The Edge [2] in Palo Alto, CA

Shabazz Palaces
  • Ishmael Butler (aka Palaceer Lazaro) – vocals, production [3]
  • Tendai Maraire – instrumentation, production
Additional personnel



Shabazz Palaces Live on KEXP (Seattle, 2014)

Forerunner Foray” by Shabazz Palaces

#Cake” by Shabazz Palaces

Motion Sickness” by Shabazz Palaces

Lese Majesty album review by The Needle Drop


Track listing

Suite 1: The Phasing Shift
No. Title Length
1. “Dawn in Luxor” 3:56
2. “Forerunner Foray” 3:48
3. “They Come in Gold” 3:22
Suite 2: Touch & Agree
No. Title Length
4. “Solemn Swears” 1:32
5. “Harem Aria” 1:58
6. “Noetic Noiromantics” 1:35
Suite 3
No. Title Length
7. “The Ballad of Lt. Maj. Winnings” 1:42
Suite 4: Palace War Council Meeting
No. Title Length
8. “Soundview” 0:40
9. “Ishmael” 4:35
10. “…down 155th in the MCM Snorkel” 2:12
Suite 5: Pleasure Milieu
No. Title Length
11. “Divine of Form” 0:39
12. “#CAKE” 4:02
Suite 6: Federal Bureau Boys
No. Title Length
13. “Colluding Oligarchs” 2:09
14. “Suspicion of a Shape” 1:41
Suite 7: High Climb to the Gallows
No. Title Length
15. “MindGlitch Keytar TM Theme” 1:22
16. “Motion Sickness” 3:49
Suite 8: Murkings on the Oxblood Starway
No. Title Length
17. “New Black Wave” 3:43
18. “Sonic MythMap for the Trip Back” 2:08



  • Coronus, The Terminator” by Flying Lotus on YouTube:
    Published on Jan 14, 2015

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THE GUARDIAN—[1 AUG 2014]  In 1994, Ishmael Butler – then of funk-hop trio Digable Planets – proclaimed, “We beat to rap what key beat to lock” in their smash single “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat). It’s 2014, and Butler’s contemporary musical group, Shabazz Palaces, shout an extension of that – this time from the rooftops – on their latest album, Lese Majesty: “To be us it takes leaps of faith.”

Butler’s path to musical acclaim has been far from linear; the Seattle-based musician forgoes the prestige for the homegrown, keeps a private life away from the stylized glamour that hip-hop can provoke. But whereas Digable Planets grooved on lickety-split rhymes, funk breakdowns and jazzy outros, Shabazz Palaces traverse paths more mystical – space-age synthesizers, sultry R&B and pummeling noise thrashes all interweave masterfully on their latest Sub Pop imprint Lese Majesty.

The duo’s 2011 Black Up swooned critics and audiences alike, waxing poetic on identity and black consciousness. Latest Lese Majesty dips its toes into stranger sonic waters, leading the listener through a gripping path through the cosmos, colluding oligarchs, and #cake, a stinging commentary on social media-ification of the world at large. The record is styled like a series of suites, listening like a triumphant hip hopera instead of a record.

Ish Butler spoke to Paula Mejia about gutting an old brewery to build a studio for Lese Majesty, feeling forever starry and his favorite kind of #cake.

PM: There all these dualities of agitation and calm, sorrow and joy I hear in Lese Majesty. What kind of headspace were you in writing these songs?

IB: I’m remembering this as I’m telling you now. The physical space in which the album was recorded was unique and special to us, because we found a raw space inside of an old brewery. We basically renovated it into four rooms and made a studio out of the place. So we built the studio then went in there and recorded [Lese Majesty]. And so it looks and feels very much like we wanted it to: black walls, black carpet, dim lights, it’s big, it’s airy, you can get reverb just from certain rooms, you can switch stuff around, like you can put your amp in different places. It’s a very designated and designed creative space. We could stay there until three, four in the morning. Whenever.

That was the main thing that kind of dictated our headspace, and that would be confidence, freedom, and also the tools, if you will, to achieve not only the shit that was in your head that you were thinking but also shit you could never imagine. The combinations of micing and amplification and different rooms and transcendence of the mind, the night and weather conditions, those things put us in a very ethereal headspace.

A lot of people will ask: “Oh people liked Black Up, did you feel the pressure to do this or that?” Not really, because what I feel was essential about Black Up was that instinct prevailed in that one, and this one we had instinct but also confidence in our own life, too. It was just strength, really.

PM: I read that you recorded an hour more than what made the final cut. How does it feel listening to it now? Are you surprised, wish you could have done something different on it, feel great about it?

IB: All of that. All of it.

PM: I’m interested in this idea you’ve mentioned about Lese Majesty being a sonic attack on social media and “me-mania.” Do you think there’s hope for our culture yet?

IB: Always. I do. I mean … I feel like a lot of people’s take on this thing is dark and dismal and hopeless. But I see the current state of things as a reality that can be modified. It’s not like we’re going to go back to some other golden time when things weren’t this way. We gotta deal with things as they are.

Social media is real and it’s not going anywhere. It might change a little bit but it’s going to be as it is, so I just think it’s cool when things that would be considered underground or marginal are also understood as being viable. Essential things, things that are cool – ideas, executions, I hope that we can bring some of those things to the forefront. I don’t think it’s hopeless now. It was the subject of our music, but in the end, going in, making music, singing, rapping, making moves, is a hopeful endeavor.

Learn more at THE GUARDIAN.


THE NEW YORK TIMES—[1 AUG 2014]  SEATTLE — It was a bright summer day here, but inside Shabazz Palaces’ studio, located in the Old Rainier Brewery building, it was dark as midnight. There were no windows, the walls were painted black, and the womblike interior was broken up only by a leopard-print rug. “Hip-hop should only take place at night,” said Palaceer Lazaro (real name: Ishmael Butler), 45, the mastermind of Shabazz Palaces, the eccentric experimental hip-hop act. “The parties, this, everything.”

That attitude could help explain the mysterious twilight sound of the band’s second full-length album, “Lese Majesty,” newly out on Sub Pop. The music is alternately languid and jarring, with melodies mutating or disappearing and Mr. Butler’s cryptic sci-fi raps often receding into the fabric. Almost everything about Shabazz Palaces seems slightly off-kilter, including their live performances, which have involved surrealistic masks and talk-show style interviews with the audience.

While outsiders might think the city’s hip-hop scene revolves around the ubiquitous white rapper Macklemore, the reality is more idiosyncratic and diverse. Shabazz Palaces are part of Black Constellation, a collective of visual artists (Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, Nicholas Galanin and Nep Sidhu, who creates their stage clothing), fashion designers and musicians, including the rapper OCnotes and the avant-R&B duo THEESatisfaction, who host a series of parties called Black Weirdo in Seattle, Toronto, New York and Minneapolis.

Learn more at THE NEW YORK TIMES.


[1]  Shoreline Amphitheatre (Mountain View, CA), July 28, 1994, opening up for Sade during the Love Deluxe Tour.

[2]  The Edge 260 California Avenue; Palo Alto, CA; 324-EDGE. DJ music and dancing or live band starts at 9 p.m., weekend nights until 3 a.m.  February 20, 1995, Digable Planets (with electric live funk band accompaniment) and Michael Franti’s SpearHead (opening the show).

[3]  Formerly known as Butterfly when performing with Digable Planets.


[6 NOV 2015]

[Last modified 6 NOV 2015  20:56 PDT]