Best Albums of 2014: Shabazz Palaces, “Lese Majesty”
Who would have thought that the iciest, spaciest, funkiest, bassiest, outergalactic-est album of the new preeminent celestial Nubian interplanetary dawn would be from two forty-something dudes in Seattle?
The best way I could describe Lese Majesty, and what makes Shabazz Palaces so special, is a line from their first album, 2011’s Black Up: “It’s a feeling.” Their jams are heady, with tons of layered tones and vibe emanating from all corners of the room. Ish Butler’s raps are the perfect blend of finesse and abstract, like Q-Tip meets Rakim on Planet Rock. You can hear his former group Digable Planets buried deep, with jazzy swing and throwback funk, but the most exciting stuff here leans to the future. The fact that Shabazz made Lese Majesty in a studio built to their own unique extraterrestrial specifications should be evident upon first listen. The songs collide into suites, while Ish meanders poetically and mysteriously about “colluding oligarchs” and “oxblood starways.” You don’t have to pretend to know what the hell he’s going on about; just lay back and let him sweep you off into the stars.—Pat McGuire