Worth a Gamble
Sub Pop’s experimental hip-hop group Shabazz Palaces ups the ante on Lese Majesty. Ishmeal Butler, formerly of Digable Planets, and multi-instrumentalist Tendai Maraire rolled the dice with their debut album Black Up, and on their sophomore release the two aimed to break the house. Filled with spacey instrumentations and solid rhymes, Less Majesty shows that they still can work miracles with the cards they are dealt.
Lese Majesty is broken up into seven groups of songs, referred to here as “suites.” Each suite has its own unique vibe, yet the beginning and ending of each isn’t marked by an abrupt stylistic change. Rather, they act as chapters in a novel the reader just can’t put down until the whole plot is revealed.
“Forerunner Forray” is the reason headphones were invented. There are so many subtle nuances going on that would be missed is listening though standalone speakers. The production quality deserves five stars. Not one note is wasted not one second unrefined. The same can be said for almost every track presented here. There isn’t a single lull in the package. “The Ballad of Lt. Maj. Winnings” sounds like what one would imagine a funk band from the future would. If a remake of Shaft is scheduled within the next hundred years, each track would reek of a rip-off from this song.
Lese Majesty is a daring glimpse at what hip-hop could become. Shabazz Palaces aren’t afraid to try new arrangements or create new sounds. In fact, one of their best instruments is space. Their ability to give the right amount of silence in between melodies or notes and not muddle the soundscapes is a feat many performers fail at. Shabazz Palaces hit the jackpot on this one and it does not look as if they are ready to cash in their chips.