Shabazz Palaces: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

Oct. 23, 2017 | Rodney Carmichael — “… Only the exalted come in and rock with us.”

With those words, spoken in the opening moments of Shabazz Palaces’ Tiny Desk performance, Palaceer Lazaro (aka Ishmael Butler, also of Digable Planets fame) lays the ground rules for all present to enter the group’s metaphysical headspace.

And, man, talk about being transported to the other side. It’s impossible not to envision the Seattle studio, Black Space Labs, where Shabazz’s otherworldly soundscapes emerge to provide the ideal backdrop for shining a light on the fake.

From the beginning, with 2011’s Black Up, Shabazz’s practice has been steeped in black magic of a different order. The same proves true on its latest two releases, the conceptual Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines and Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star. Leave it to hip-hop’s unorthodox lot to conceive an ambitious pairing that launches the narrative’s protagonist on an interstellar journey far from home. It’s the perfect proxy for the growing sense of alienation we’re all suffering, to some degree or another, in today’s space and time.

While the premise of Tiny Desk usually involves artists stripping down their set, Shabazz Palaces’ entire steelo is about unplugging from the metaphorical matrix, and sometimes a hybrid of digital-analog plugins is exactly what it takes to navigate alternate dimensions.

Set List

“Colluding Oligarchs”
“They Come In Gold”
“Shine A Light”


Ishmael Butler, Tendai Maraire, Otis Calvin


Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineers: Suraya, James Willetts, Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Niki Walker, Bronson Arcuri; Production Assistant: Kara Frame.

See also  Noname: Tiny Desk Concert

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