On their second album Lese Majesty, Shabazz Palaces continue to make hip-hop 100% on their own terms.
The duo of Ishmael Butler, formerly Butterfly of 1990s outfit Digable Planets, and Tendai ‘Baba’ Maraire created Shabazz Palaces in the mid-2000s, releasing a pair of self-titled EPs at the close of that decade, and following them with Black Up – a debut album that combined hip-hop traditions with freeform creativity (as Tendai told FACT last month, “we pop champagne and do all of it … But we don’t make it a point to propagate that and push that and go down that lane”). It wasn’t the easiest album to digest, but when the dust settled, it proved to be one of the year’s best.
Sub Pop, the group’s label, describe Lese Majesty‘s material as “reveries sent to Palaceer Lazaro [Ishmael] and Fly Guy ‘Dai [Tendai] in the year of gun beat battles in excess; in a succession of days, whilst walking in dreams and in varied transcendental states”. It’s a grander, more ambitious record than their debut – made in the group’s new studio, they “had the time and space to realise much more than we have before”. But it’s also a record that never spirals into pure indulgence: put simply, just like countless hip-hop classics before it, it knows that all the experimentation in the world doesn’t mean shit if the beats don’t bump and the rhymes don’t hit. Lese Majesty is rooted in tradition without ever feeling trad, and perhaps that, more than anything, is what makes it succeed.
We’re premiering the stream of Lese Majesty below (US readers can head here). You can pre-order the album on iTunes, or purchase direct from Sub Pop (vinyl, digital or CD) here.