Shabazz Palaces in the Twisted Pepper
Seattle based rappers, Palaceer Lazaro and Tendai ‘Baba’ Maraire, better known as Shabazz Palaces, are new to my radar - but what an impression they have made. Their constantly surprising, subtext filled lyrics are atypically eloquent, and coupled with song structures that constantly ebb and flow in opposing directions, they are not your average rap couple. Also, they have dance routines. Mind blown. They played the Twisted Pepper on Friday night - and it was nothing short of awesome.
Sidling onstage, cool as hell, bedecked in sunglasses and to a roaring crowds’ yelps of excitement - they began their set in earnest. Unfortunately, there were some sort of teething problems with their sound set up - to the point that the pair stand a few paces back from their african-print-sheeted drums and Ableton keypad as the tech team from the Twisted Pepper rush to fix the problematic lead that seems to be causing the trouble. Apologetic or bewildered - I can’t quite tell - the pair look at the crowd, who - in response - burst into applause and we-don’t-mind-waiting whoops. I think we have an understanding. The issue is sorted within minutes and the pair launch again into their set. One of the first songs is ‘Youology’ who’s’ snapping-noised start is mirrored by the thickest bass thud that you could imagine - and set-in syncopated rapping…
‘searching blind / run behind / out of time / into fire / caked up in fake love to get you high’
…it’s so good. Filling out their set with ‘Recollections of the Wrath’ - with its female soul singing samples - and ‘An Echo From The Hosts That Profess Infinnitum’ - both tracks off their album ‘Black Up’ (which is epic, go buy) there isn’t a moment of wasted time between each song. Free-styled, improvised Ableton processes and live drumming, are twinned with maracas, dual clapping, thumb harps - and of course, succinctly worded, rapped lyrics. Their music, though thematically intense, is also whirring and sensual, and their voices velveteen.
They both bounce and groove to their own constant beats, but when I realized that they have dance moves - routines even - sometimes even something akin to double dutch clapping, I could have quite literally jumped out of my skin. They are so fucking adorable, I could die.Their on stage symbiosis and relationship makes me jealous. ‘Free Press and Curl’ - a song with an undeniably catchy hook is next up, ‘I’m Free, I’m Free, You know I’m Free’, and that on the night finished with a bonged cacophony, was perfection, and performed to a crowd that seemed to know every lyric ver batim already. Always a good sign. The constant reverb and intensity isn’t something that I quite expected from this gig - the album (and performance) vacillates in tempo from song to song, but the pairs’ stage presence has the whole room moving is a sort of collective wave on the strength of the beats. ‘Are You…. Can You… Were You? (Felt)’ - was the closing tune, and utterly perfect as such….
(Time / I understand it / But I never choose it / I can’t explain it with words / I have to do it / The ship I came on here vanished /// It’s a feeling / It’s a feeling / It’s a feeling).
Not. Enough. Superlatives.