Experimental hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces will perform on October 13 at the music hall „Daile” as part of the 15th edition of Skaņu Mežs festival for adventurours music.
The first hip-hop crew signed to the Sub Pop label, Shabazz Palaces is the brainchild of Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, although the Digable Planets member wasn’t so quick to admit it. In 2009, Shabazz Palaces released two EPs — one self-titled, the other titled Of Light — but Butler’s name didn’t appear on either. No promo shots, no social networking sites, no interviews, and no press releases were issued by the enigmatic, Seattle-based project, but that didn’t stop the local press from throwing praise at these EPs, which hit much harder than Digable while retaining that forward-thinking wordplay. The EPs became favorites at the Sub Pop offices, too, and in 2010, the usually indie rock label signed the project, releasing their debut album, Black Up, in 2011. Next, it transpired that Tendai Maraire — son of the famous mbira player Dumisani Maraire — was responsible for most of the instrumentation on that record and that Shabazz Palaces was, in effect, a duo.
Both Butler and Maraire were relatively quiet in the ensuing years, but found time to make a guest appearance on AwE NaturalE, the 2012 debut by fellow Seattle alternative hip-hop duo THEESatisfaction. The pair also teamed up with Hussein Kalonji to create the March 2014 album riZe vadZimu riZe under the Chimurenga Renaissance moniker, before they returned that same year with a second Shabazz Palaces studio album, Lese Majesty. Three years later, in 2017, they returned with two further albums, Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star and Quazarz vs the Jealous Machines; both albums chronicled the journey of Quazarz, a celestial being trying to navigate the harsh reality of life on Earth.
Both Black Up and Lese Majesty were named among the „50 Best Albums of the Year” in 2011 and 2014 respectively, with Lese Majesty, being the most abstract of the two recordings, attracting also the attention of experimental music audiences and being named in a similar year-end-best-album list by The Wire magazine.
The two recently released albums of 2017 have also gathered positivel feedback; Pitchfork, for instance, wrote the following: „Gangster Star and Jealous Machines are essential counter-programming against the indoctrination of the screen-based economy—and a refreshing example of art and expression wholly unconcerned with convention.”
Before the two albums’ release, Rolling Stone magazine named them among the 24 most anticipated rap albums of 2017, adding that „Shabazz Palaces are responsible for some of the most strangely alluring hip-hop of the 2010s”.
Tickets to the festival can be purchased here: ticketservice.lv. Advance sales ticket to a single evening costs 15 EUR, while a two-day pass to October 13 and 14 costs 20 EUR.
The Skaņu Mežs festival is supported by the Ministry of Culture of Latvia, State Culture Capital Foundation, the Municipality of Riga, Trust for Mutual Understanding, Kulturkontakt Nord, as well as iRobot, Valmiermuiža and Red Bull Music Academy. Skaņu Mežs is also a member of the SHAPE platform for innovative music and audiovisual art, supported by the „Creative Europe” program of the European Union, and I.C.A.S., an international network of festivals, devoted to adventurous sound.