Since 2009, Seattle’s Shabazz Palaces duo has dropped four stellar and groundbreaking records while reinventing what you think about modern hip hop. The Houston Press chatted with founding member Ishmael Butler about his time in the music industry, the two new albums the pair dropped this year, and what those in attendance can expect from them at their set at this year’s Day For Night.
For anyone unaware, Ishmael Butler has been in the music industry as an innovator for more than 30 years. First with the groundbreaking hip hop group Digable Planets, and then with neo-psychedelia group Cherrywine. When asked about how he feels about the music industry today, Butler says: “I don’t see it encapsulated in epochs. The most important music is the whale that’s in the industry itself, taking into account the most important music being the one that preceded you.”
Butler says he’s not that excited about current rappers flirting with grime, black metal. “I’m not excited that they’ve done it. If what they’re doing fits my tastes and I like it, that’s fine. But I’ve noticed that commerciality affects the mindset and nowadays genre mixing feels forced. They’e attaching art aesthetics to things before the idea is fully fleshed out.”
Shabazz Palaces bring their mystical sounds to Day For Night.
Photo by Victoria Kovios
This year, the hip hop duo did the unthinkable in releasing two albums at the same time. With both Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines and Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star, they take their inventive sound and turn thing up a notch. However, according to Butler, there wasn’t initially a plan to release two albums. “WThey had finished Jealous and went back into the studio to work on some sessions. “Before we knew it, we had a whole other record. There were some tracks like “Shine A Light” that we really wanted to come out, and that’s how it happened with the second record.”
As for what they have in store for Houston at Day For Night, that seems like it’s a little up in the air. “I’m not sure what we’ll do cause’ we aren’t on the ground yet. We have so many machines, loopers, keyboards and what not on stage with us that we usually make up about 60 percent on the spot,” Butler says. “We tend to vibe from the city, and we’re excited about the diversity in Houston, so we will see. You figure out so much of the show on the way to it, so I’m excited about what we’ll do there this time around.”
You can stream both of Shabazz Palaces’ new albums in all of the usual places, or order them directly from Sub Pop Records. Shabazz Palaces will perform at this year’s Day For Night festival on Sunday December 17 at 1:20 p.m. The all ages festival has sets from Solange, St Vincent, Nine Inch Nails, The Jesus Lizard and many many more. Doors at noon, tickets $95 to $760.