Shabazz Palaces – Lese Majesty
Palaceer Lazaro (formerly known as Ishmael 'Butterfly' Butler of Digable Planets) and Tendai Maraire broke through in 2011 with the mercurial, minimalist and abstract Black Up. With stripped digital beats and playful, worldly-wise lyrics, that album was a considerable achievement, setting out a template for Seattle hip-hop that was challenging, experimental and rugged without recourse to macho declarations of street toughness. On Lese Majesty, they push the envelope even further.
The beats draw on cloud rap and cult electronica, with the best cuts - drifting, dreamlike openers Dawn in Luxor and Forerunner Foray – achieving a hazy, LSD-washed, cosmic vibe. Wisely avoiding exhortations to take shrooms and open minds, the duo retain their humour (see the chuckle-inducing #CAKE). At points, over-ambition causes them to lose focus, but at a sprawling 18 tracks, even the less invigorating moments drift by pleasantly. Superior psychedelic hip-hop from a band yet to reach their peak, and sure to dominate when they do. [Bram E. Gieben]