LISTEN: awE naturalE – THEESatisfaction

Photo by: David Belisle

The title of THEESatisfaction’s debut album on Sub Pop Records (due March 27) is stylized to read: awE naturalE. Group members Cat and Stas have universal style in spades, though, so fanciful alphabetic manipulation is unnecessary whenever concerned with this duo.

The record in question is streaming in its entirety over at NPR Music and I suggest you click on over now. The LP is short enough to listen to during your lunch break, but its musical, lyrical and spiritual depths plumb more toward eternity. It’s as obsessively advanced and enlightened as Shabazz Palaces’ Black Up and, just like that triumph in artistic spirit, it was grown in your own backyard, Seattle. Take joy in this one.

Audio Listen

VIDEO: “Are You… Can You… Were You? (Felt)” – Shabazz Palaces (dir. by Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes)

This just dropped from the (internet) ether. SP raising the bar again.

Also, confirmed tour dates:

Saturday, February 18, 2012 La Cave aux poetes, Roubaix France

Sunday, February 19, 2012 Stereolux, Nantes France

Monday February 20, 2012 Les Trinitaires, Metz France

Tuesday February 21, 2012 Strasbourg La Laiterie, France

Friday February 24, 2012 Palace, St Gallen Switzerland

Saturday, February 25, 2012 Stall 6, Zurich Switzerland

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 Astoria, Turin Italy

Thursday, March 01, 2012 Circolo degli Artisti, Rome Italy

Friday, March 02, 2012 Bronson, Ravenna Italy

Saturday, March 03, 2012 Studio 2 Vigonovo (Venezia) Italy

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 The Whole, Minneapolis MN (All Ages Show)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 Mad Planet. Milwaukee WI

Thursday, April 5, 2012 Lincoln Hall, Chicago IL

Friday, April 6, 2012 Magic Stick, Detroit MI

Saturday, April 7, 2012 The Horn Gallery, Gambier OH

Sunday, April 2012 The Shadow Lounge, East Liberty PA

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 Lee’s Palace, Toronto ON

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 II Motore, Montreal QC

Thursday, April 12, 2012 Iron Horse, Northampton MA

Friday, April 13 2012 SOB’s, New York NY

Saturday, April 14, 2012 Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn NY

Live Coverage Video

206UP.COM’s Top 10 SEA Hip-Hop Albums of 2011: #5 through 1

206UP.COM’s Top 10 Seattle Hip-Hop Albums of 2011 concludes today with the list below, the blog’s five favorite local releases of the year. I hope you enjoyed the list and that it generates an active response in your brain — that’s really the sole reason we do these year-end list things, anyway. Everything is up for conjecture. If you have something to say, I want to hear it — the Comments section is there for you to use. As before, links to download or purchase are included, just click on the album covers.

5. The Good Sin & 10.4 Rog – Late

Producer 10.4 Rog’s beatific sense of rhythm and electronic adornments made for the perfect counterpoint to The Good Sin’s grounded, low-pitched raps on getting by financially and romantically when success with both endeavors seems fleeting. I recall downloading this free album right around the time Odd Future’s proverbial cream was rising to the top and, upon listening, was happy to experience a different type of hip-hop escape: Finding a relatable and comfortable space of existence between Rog’s airy atmospherics and Sinseer’s lyrics on the everyday struggle. For most listeners in Seattle, this was a formal introduction to both producer and MC. Late set an incredibly high standard for these promising young artists whose stars are still rising.

4. Khingz – Liberation of the Monster

A relocation to Vancouver, BC has not changed the allegiance or focus in subject matter of the South End’s most self-aware rapper, Khingz. Liberation of the Monster was the best collection of tracks the MC has released since 2009’s remarkable From Slaveships to Spaceships. Canadian producer Rel!g!on was responsible for all of the beats, a Pacific Northwest re-working of the SoCal gangsta aesthetic found on 1990s albums like Dogg Food. While Khingz may forever associate himself with that style of rap nostalgically (like many us who came-of-age in the 90s), he’s decidedly more responsible and progressive in his rhymes. His course is set on a better future, a destination borne from a dubious past. On tracks like “Monster’s Lib” and “Hard to Say,” the MC is so diffuse in his rhyming it’s hard to keep up with the words. You would be too if you had the rare combination of artistic acumen and social enlightenment of this rapper.

3. Blue Scholars – Cinemetropolis

Even Shabazz Palaces’ debut LP Black Up didn’t ignite the local hip-hop landscape initially the way Blue Scholars did with their third full-length album, Cinemetropolis. Behind the strength of a Kickstarter campaign that generated a pre-album release $62,000 in donations in six weeks and a subsequent 33-date national headlining tour, Geo and Sabzi remained Seattle rap’s sentimental favorite (until the next Macklemore drops, anyway).

Producer Sabzi developed a new sound for the group: A bass-heavy mix of heady synth and tropical rhythms. And MC Geo wove his love for cinema and social justice into conceptual lyrics that succeeded in entertaining and provoking thought. As the members of Blue Scholars age, it seems like their fans are getting younger, which bodes well for the future. If the youth are independently choosing to support acts like this, then maybe there is hope for the coming generation.

2. The Physics – Love is a Business

A giant leap forward for Seattle hip-hop (and R&B for that matter). The Physics’ Love is a Business was the long-awaited follow-up to the group’s first LP, Future Talk, a record that held many promises for those heads still living in rap’s Golden Era. Love is a Business did have much in common with its predecessor, but also moved beyond with a wholly-conceived sound that was more soulful and refined thanks especially to don’t-call-them-back-up singers, Malice and Mario Sweet.

LIAB represents Seattle hip-hop in its most fully-grown incarnation. Thig Natural, Monk Wordsmith and Justo placed themselves contextually in that realm of maturity where one is still young enough to enjoy a Tuesday night jump-off encounter, but not without a hint of regret at having to face the coming work day on little to no sleep. In these mens’ lives, the intersection of their art, professional careers and romantic engagements are inseparable, each one informs the other. If there’s any justice in the musical universe someday The Physics will make beats and rhymes for a living, and this album’s description of their current existence will serve as a fond reminder to them of when life was a little less charmed.

1. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up

At this moment in time, it’s impossible to place Black Up into appropriate hip-hop context. But that’s because (and any theoretical physicist will tell you this) time itself is merely an illusion. Similar to the career of Shabazz Palaces’ primary motivating force, Palaceer Lazaro (earthly name: Ishmael Butler), the sounds on Black Up ascend to the stratosphere, only to dissipate and fall invisibly to the terra firma where the music is reformed into new lyrical notions and sonic movements. The sounds here are transient, but everything in Butler’s past seems to have been pointing to this moment.

If you had to pinpoint an origin for Black Up, you would say its spirit is rooted most firmly in Africa. The Palaceer’s words stay tethered to a motherland but course off in many directions, just like peoples disseminated (by choice and by force) across the globe. As I type this, Shabazz Palaces is spreading its ethereal sound across parts of Europe, and will likely move beyond that continent. How fortunate we are in Seattle then, to be able to call our city SP’s corporeal home. I don’t think many people in The Town realized a spirit like Shabazz’s existed in their midst. Seattleites (and the world), take note: If that’s cream you’re putting in your coffee — don’t. Better to drink the elixir Black.

Album Reviews Best of 2011 Downloads

REVIEW: Black Up – Shabazz Palaces

Click album cover to purchase at Sub Pop Records.

Two years ago…

An unsolicited email from a stranger. An exchange of contact information. The arrival of a mysterious package containing two enigmatic CD’s, the contents of which were bafflingly abstruse then, and continue to be now. This is one story, in brief, of how Shabazz Palaces came to exist in this writer’s musical conscious. There are other stories, too, but they are immaterial to the individual experience. As Palaceer Lazaro, the lead creative voice of SP says explicitly on Black Up, the group’s debut full-length album: “It’s a feeling.” These are words worth paying attention to. Do you remember how you felt the first time you heard Shabazz Palaces? If so, put all of your questions about the music and perceived answers to the side, for feeling Black Up is really all that matters.

(Click here to continue reading at SSG Music.)

Album Reviews Listen SSG Music Cross-Post

VIDEO: Maureen Interviews Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces

As previewed a few weeks ago, here is the full interview of Shabazz Palaces’ Palaceer Lazaro (bka. Ishmael Butler) by “budding Wooster, MA journalist Maureen.” Black Up coming June 28. Take advantage of advanced promo offers from Sub Pop Records, here.


DOWNLOAD: “Swerve…The Reeping of All That Is Worthwhile (Noir Not Withstanding)” – Shabazz Palaces (feat. THEESatisfaction)

“Swerve…” is, by far, the most accessible (I hate that term) Shabazz Palaces track released thus far. I should qualify: by “accessible” I mean “danceable.” This one will tangle your brain and your body. Honorary SP member THEESatisfaction drops science in the track’s second half. The last 1:10 is a call for Black unity through movement and rhythm. Filthy. Seattle’s collective rap conscious sits in contemplative meditation until Black Up drops on June 28.


VIDEO: Maureen Interviews Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces

Here’s something different: the mysterious yet very everyday “budding journalist extraordinaire,” Maureen, sat down with Ishmael Butler (otherwise known as Palaceer Lazaro of Shabazz Palaces — introduction extraneous if you’re a regular reader of this website). The clip above is a very brief preview.

Having a non-hop-hop head interview a very accomplished hip-hop artist, especially someone as ethereally-oriented as Butler, is something like asking a child to interview a physicist about how a nuclear fusion reactor is constructed. Non-sequiturs, possibly of the beautiful and unexpectedly insightful, may ensue. Make sure to watch for the interview in its entirety in the coming weeks.

On the album tip, SP’s Sub Pop debut, Black Up, is set for a June 28 release. But if you place an advance order on the LP before May 31, the label provides you with instant streaming access to the album and a free patch designed by the artist. Click here to take advantage of that offer.

Breaking News Video

LISTEN: “Lost Foundling” – Shabazz Palaces

Photo: Laura Musselman

Late wit’ it. Then again, we all know Shabazz Palaces defies time and often explanation, so f-ck it. “Lost Foundling” is a joint from the Sub Pop sampler, Terminal Sales Vol. 4: Please To Enjoy. If you’re not waiting with bated breath for May 31’s Black Up, then you must like wack sh-t.

“Lost Foundling” features drunk bass, staccato-ed waves of synth and a threat from Palaceer Lazaro to end all the mainstream rap f-ckery once and for all. I don’t believe that is an idle threat.