Shabazz Palaces deliver a tight and rhythmically cool set which reveals plenty of substance beneath the surface – Getintothis’ Stephanie Heneghan head bobs along and gives herself a hip hop related injury.
With a name that sounds like a dodgy Indian Restaurant and a cursory glance at Google suggesting they’re ‘avant garde hip pop’, we’re not entirely sure what to expect from Shabazz Palaces as they take to the Kazimer stage.
First impressions serve only to confuse further. When Palaceer Lazaro (aka Ishmael Butler) takes to the stage, he’s clad in a top covered in tassels and the most swag pair of sunglasses we’ve ever seen.
They would make Kanye cry hot tears of jealousy – covering half of Lazaro’s face and with a mirrored lens that could surely protect your eyes in the event of the sun exploding.
Lazaro takes his place behind a tables strewn with laptops and machines surely pilfered from NASA; his partner in crime Tendai ‘Baba’ Maraire taking charge of the hand drums providing percussion throughout.
Launching into Youlogy, with the ‘do you want it?‘ refrain echoing, it’s immediately evident that this is a tight show.
No evidence of freestyling on show, this is rehearsed, perfected and performed without flaws. Even the basic dance routine they perform during it – we’re not talking Usher theatricals here, just a basic shoulder shrug – is slick and free from mistakes.
Under that showy persona, these dudes are sticklers – they work seamlessly with each other, knowing the plan inside out.
Vocal samples are dropped and looped, heavy beats resonating, at times the output builds up to a crescendo of sound. They weave their way through a setlist without pause, flowing from one grandly named track to the next – including An Echo From The Hosts That Profess Infinitum and A Treatease Dedicated To The Avian Airess From North East Nubis (1000 Questions, 1 Answer) – both taken from their Sub Pop debut Black Up.
Later in the show they’re joined by the two vocalists from THEESatisfaction, who lend a melodic tone to the animated rap flow.
Pausing here for a quick fashion aside, they’re both rocking bobble hats – a strong look for AW12 but perhaps ill-advised in the sweaty confines of a packed Kazimier. The safest assumption is that they were suffering from hat hair, we’ve all been there eh.
They leave the stage and the show continues, entertaining an audience that are clearly in thralls to the duo.
Sneaking a peak at four lads on a table opposite, all head nodding in unison like a row of Churchill dogs, an unspoken shared rhythm. Everyone is on the same wavelength as they attempt to silently rap along with the lyrics.
For an act with the smoothest of routines, there’s a danger that this can come off as too slick, too cold and calculated. The gloss might be shiny but is there substance underneath it?
In this case, yes. You get the impression that the rehearsed demeanour comes from a love of the music and wanting to give their best show every time.
They care about it and this comes across; not indifferent robots but artists who are having a good time through giving their best performance, in turn inspiring an audience to join them.
And we do, nodding our heads with the beat, not caring about the dull ache that awaits us the following morning.
Anyone got a neck brace I can borrow? It’s for a hip hop related injury.
Picture courtesy of Ian Gamester.