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Review Wed Sep 17 2014

Shabazz Palaces Experiments with Lincoln Hall

20140914_000519(1).jpgExperimental hip hop has on the rise recently; bringing influxes of strange and often thought to be counterintuitive elements into the hip hop world with great results. The experimentation with beats and flows has been reaching an tremendous peak over the last few years, with Shabazz Palaces being very close to the top. The group, consisting of Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire, meshes incredibly dense verses while reaching out for more obscure sounds from a number of genres including jazz, funk, and tribal music. The combination is at times off-putting, making more artistic hip hop than the usual party anthems. Shabazz Palaces fights their way through the norm and emerges with a complexity that few are capable of achieving. They put this complexity on full display at Lincoln Hall this past weekend.

Chicago's own Chandeliers set the tone for the night with their entrancing electronic sound. The songs they played had an impressive depth, layering both synthetic sounds and a live drum into the set. I wouldn't be surprised if a rapper repurposed Chandelier's compositions as beats they have an inherent hip hop quality, blurring the edge between the more ambient moments and the bass intense sections in their tracks. The trio, Chris Kalis, Harry Brenner, and Scott McGaughey, performed in a facing one another in what looked like a trance. Projected above them were equally absorbing visuals, reminding me of an endless tracking VHS copy of the stargate scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was easy to just let go and groove along with the band as they embodied the epitome of a late night vibe.

Shabazz Palaces came out after a longer than usual interlude, diving right into "Forefront Runner". The two came out wearing very similar outfits. The matching patterns were similar to the prints found on tradition dashikis and meshed well with their rhythmic choreography and demeanor. Tendai Maraire somehow shifted through multiple instruments with ease as Ishmael Bulter's flow wrapped around itself into dizzying lyrics through dark single panel sunglasses. The confidence in the group is staggering, burgeoning to enormous degrees as their set goes on.

shabazz.jpgMost of their songs were drowned out in reverb and distortion, but that was to be expected from Shabazz Palaces. Their studio tracks on their latest album Lese Majesty are heavy on disorienting production and it comes through even louder live. The distortion adds an almost unneeded layer to Bulter's already heady and hyper literate verses line that range from religious references to Moby Dick. "Youlogy", Shabazz Palaces' contemplation on mainstream celebrity and race, was drowned out in the echoing of Butler's voice. It certainly didn't make the song less enjoyable, but it did hide one of the many strengths of the song. However there were glimmering high notes in the set that balanced the group's idiosyncrasies such as "They Come in Gold", which contains more than its fair share of ancient references and white whales.

Their set was satisfyingly long, touching upon their entire discography. The break bread hook off "4 Shadows" from their self-titled EP ricocheted across the swaying crowd. Their final songs leaned closer to their first album Black Up, with the likes of a rant against the state of hip hop "An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum" and the eloquent "Recollections of the Wraith". Bulter and Maraire finished up the set with the same energy they had throughout. Mairaire intensely beat the conga drums as Butler moved around his spot on stage with determination. Shabazz Palaces' brand of hip hop transcends the genre, verging closer to an idealistic visage of what it could be

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Depp / September 17, 2014 2:44 PM

Typo in the headline

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


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The Mutiny
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Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
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