Levitation Vancouver 2016: Shabazz Palaces

Wednesday 08th, June 2016 / 12:48
By Graeme Wiggins
Photo: Nina Corcoran

Photo: Nina Corcoran

VANCOUVER — Blurring genre lines is something Shabazz Palaces’s front man Ishmael Butler has made something of a career of. From the jazz soaked influence on his classic albums as part of Digable Planets, to the future-sounds oriented, high concept records with Shabazz Palaces, Butler has made a career of pushing things forward.

While his latest record, Lese Majesty, could be taken as an attack on the state of rap music, it’s not about stagnation. As Butler argues, “I don’t think it’s stagnant. I think it’s moving, that people are being creative, but that it’s been narrowed. The movement is in a direction that is away from essential things and has more to do with superficial things, surface stuff: a narrower view of what’s possible.”

That broader view allows Shabazz Palaces the freedom to push their sound wherever it takes them. Even live, they don’t feel confined to the songs. Butler explains, “We do a lot of improvisational stuff on the show. Most of the set is new stuff, that stuff that’s only gonna be heard at that show. It’s pretty dynamic. We are active in the making of the music, not just playing the tracks and rapping. Tendai is playing a lot of instruments and we’re doing a lot of vocal stuff, making up things on the spot. We vibe off the crowd and environment and speak to that.”

Shabazz Palaces perform at the Imperial on June 18.

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