Shabazz Palaces – Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star

Album Review by Stephen Butchard | 10 Jul 2017
  • Shabazz Palaces – Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star
Album title: Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star
Artist: Shabazz Palaces
Label: Sub Pop
Release date: 14 Jul

Shabazz Palaces are of the distant future, the forgotten past, or a wormhole connecting both. Songs are dense with effects, whisper-quiet raps masked by stark bass and crystallised percussion. The deep-space mood recalls Ishmael Butler’s essential material with Digable Planets. His heady rapping is untouched by time, when you decipher the puzzles through the fog. The beats paint a lineage, from Parliament-Funkadelic, to Dilla, to GZA, to Dām-Funk, and spheres not yet reachable.

Born on a Gangster Star is Quazar’s origin story. It sounds like muddled fragments on first listen, but laced with stirring melodies, turns-of-phrase and production tricks, it lures you back. On opener Since C.A.Y.A, Thundercat’s bubbling bass lurches over giddy wordplay. You pull in closer to make it all out. On The Neurochem Mixologue, cyborg synths melt together in a slowdance. You get addicted to the tangled voices.

When the pieces do begin to form, it’s highly rewarding. Déesse du Sang at first seems like an obligatory establishing shot. When you’ve spent the first few tracks singling in on buried vocals, though, you notice how the reverb pans in and out, leaving the track weightless, hollow and deeply moving on its finish. For what could be a masturbatory exercise or a cheap way to create buzz for what is ultimately weird-ass inaccessible hip-hop, there’s very little filler to be found. These are sprawling works with clear focus.

Listen to: Shine a Light, Parallex