Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-07-08


Shabazz Palaces: Of Light (Switchblade Music/Templar EP, 2009) Ishmael Butler surfaced as Digable Planets' Butterfly, briefly led the electrofunk CherryWine a decade later, and then sunk from view until the near simultaneous 2009 release of two illegibly documented alt-rap EPs--even determining Butler's involvement required investigative reporting. Lead track on the first promises both "ideology to go" and "attack of the funky clones," but until the be-what-you-are closer, the record delivers mostly clones or at least "clones," including Butler as raggamuffin and a rent-a-thug calling out such "drug pushers" as Osama, Bush II, and old-schooler Oliver North. Fortunately, when the funk is this deep and weird, replicas sound like singletons every time. A-

Shabazz Palaces: Shabazz Palaces (Switchblade Music/Templar EP, 2009) Rhyming dark and down over beats artier than Dilla's, the artist currently known as Palaceer Lazaro dares you to pin him down. Although the music is less peculiar than first appears, exotica guitar and group-hey-with-foghorn and looped-mbira-tunelet don't exactly shout street. Yet quietly but clearly, the rapper sticks to MC swagger, casual criminality, partying till you wild out, "a lot of hopes and wishes and dreams in here"--plus just enough cautionary reality to keep his ideology fresh. Think of him as a locally based documentarian--a "bright light on the dark side of town" with a cool hand on the dimmer switch. A-

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