Music

Album review | HIP-HOP

Shabazz Palaces, ‘Lese Majesty’

The title of Shabazz Palaces’ second full-length record roughly translates to an offense against a sovereign or a state. And with this trippy, often transporting song cycle, the Seattle-based band led by Ishmael Butler seems to be thumbing its nose at the state of contemporary hip-hop. Butler (formerly of Digable Planets), working here without multi-instrumentalist Tendai Maraire, expands the genre’s language (literally) and boundaries with meditative songs intricately brocaded with effects, keyboards, and minimalist electronic beats. Fans of boom-bap and bling-and-booty rap are sure to be confounded by these impressionistic stream of consciousness songs. Butler’s lyrics are overloaded with neologisms, wild alliteration, and literary references; it sounds as if he composed some of them after getting stuck in Walter White’s meth lab while reading James Joyce’s “Ulysses” (“blackophilic peodolistic pedostrophopic hymns”). While there are songs of undeniable artistic invention (“Dawn in Lexor,” “#CAKE”) there are also moments of ostentatious indulgence, intellectual handstands that feel like ends in themselves. But then, that’s always a hazard with a band this original and audacious. (Out Tuesday)

KEN CAPOBIANCO


ESSENTIAL “#CAKE”

Ken Capobianco can be reached at franznine@live.com.
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