Shabazz Palaces

Ish (fka Butterfly) is one of the reasons I went to New York in the first place. Digable Planets were essential listening back in high school, especially their second album Blowout Comb. After the Planets kind-of broke up, he appeared on a couple 12 inches, did some stuff under the name Cherrywine…and then a few years ago, my friend Gabe runs into him back in Ish’s hometown of Seattle selling his new CDs (which each came with special Shabazz Palaces patches). Some of the songs had mile-long names, and the production was very unsimilar to the Digable jazz-sound. But when Gabe played them for me, we both were like, this shit is kinda ill. And the more I listened to it, the more I couldn’t believe it. A few of the beats were a little too out for me, but even on those you had Ish’s one-of-a-kind voice spitting a mixture of politics and everyday life stories.

I’d been hearing about the live show for a bit, mostly from theĀ  homies in Seattle. I missed the first couple shows in NY but finally saw them last Friday night at SOB’s and it was as phenomenal as folks had been talkin. So often hip-hop ends up being boring live, but the live percussion (plus a couple choreographed stage moves) and rapping kept things moving. What took it over the top though was the non-stop energy – there were no breaks with cliche speeches to the crowd, or corny audience directives. SP was focused on their music, going in super hard until SOBs basically pulled the plug and told everyone to suddenly leave without chance for an encore. However it was the final moment when the music stopped and Ish cracked a quick, wide smile as he stepped off stage that you got the full feeling he just had tremendous fun for the past hour and a half.

By far the most creative hip-hop show I’ve seen in years.