A decade ago, seminal New York hip-hop trio Digable Planets dissolved back into the universe, letting its blend of hip-hop and jazz seep into influence rather than pushing it forward. Yeah, the three did the solo thing, but nothing really stuck.
Enter Shabazz Palaces in 2009, shrouded in mystery, with a pair of fantastic EPs that clued in very little to the contingent of the group. But it was pretty easy for Planets fans to discern the bouncy delivery of Planet's Ishmael "Butterfly" Butler, here calling himself Palaceer Lazaro. Last week, Shabazz dropped its excellent debut LP, Black Up on Sub Pop, to huge acclaim, while staying shrouded in mystery.
If anything, the density of the reactions to Shabazz is in itself intimidating, if not the far-out minimalist psychedelic avant-rap debut LP, Black Up. But to view the group live is something totally different -- dare we say, simplified?
On good advice, we won't over-intellectualize this, though: the distilled cool of Planets, mixed with the outer-galaxy production of Cannibal Ox comes out so solid in a performance context. I don't really remember congas in live hip-hop since Cypress Hill. And no one quite so relaxed behind the mic I don't think ever, as Palaceer is here. We'll forgive the bad sunglasses.