- 11 Feb 19
Shabazz Palaces brought their otherworldly sound and abstract raps to The Sugar Club on Friday.
Rap duo Shabazz Palaces, comprised of Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire, took the stage at the Sugar Club on Friday night to perform a wide range of material from their albums.
Shabazz Palaces was formed under a veil of secrecy in Seattle, Washington in 2009, and began releasing music known for its abstract lyricism and experimental, otherworldly sounds. Most recently, the duo released a double album in 2017, Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star and Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines. The best of what Shabazz Palaces has to offer was on display at the Sugar Club.
After an opening set from Wastefellow, deep bass began to vibrate the small venue and Shabazz Palaces was projected onto the screen, the dripping red typography announcing the duos arrival. The duo began their set with spirited performances of 'Forerunner Foray', 'Youlogy' and 'They Come in Gold'. Butler confidently threw out lyrics like "If I'm there in the square you should come and stare / Bring her too, learn a thing or two how a king'll do" while Maraire used a mixture of synthetic and live instrumentation to bring their music to life.
With songs like 'Swerve... the reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)', which goes through several iterations and different sounds before reaching its conclusion, the duo demonstrated their ability to move between sounds and beats without losing any momentum.
While Shabazz Palaces played through their songs, accompanying visuals deepened their sociopolitical messages. Images of urban sprawl, the Civil Rights era and white men with guns, among many others, gave the performance a sense of place and urgency on behalf of people of color. Unlike Years & Years, whose use of Asian visuals were confusing and one-note, Shabazz Palaces seemed to recognize the power of their visuals and how they could use it to speak to important issues.
The duo took things back to their older releases with performances of 'Gunbeat Falls', 'Are You... Can You... Were You?' and 'Free Press and Curl'. During 'Gunbeat Falls', archival footage of black activists raising their fists to the air were mirrored by Butler and Maraire in a powerful moment, while the mostly white audience seemed uncertain of whether or not they should do the same. The final stretch of the show included 'Bronny on a Breakaway' and 'Effeminence'.
Throughout the entire concert, Shabazz Palaces consistently proved that their engaging, alien and experimental sound and raps translate to an equally engaging and surreal live experience.