If you haven’t been paying attention to hip-hop much in the last 2-3 years, you might have missed out on some important developments and new acts, and chief among them would be Seattle-based artists Shabazz Palaces and THEESatisfaction. Both artists have released albums to massive critical acclaim — 2011′s Black Up from Shabazz and 2012′s awE naturalE from THEESatisfaction — and their successes walk down a road paved with their Northwest roots, their enigmatic behavior, their spirit of empowerment and knowledge of self.
Thanks to their Seattle connection, Shabazz Palaces and THEESatisfaction became inextricably linked. Seattle native Palacer Lazeero aka Ishmael Butler aka Butterfly from Digable Planets (because evolutionary people evolve) connected up with the multi-instrumentalist Tendai ‘Baba’ Maraire to craft experimental hip-hop, mostly free of commercial hooks and gimmicks, that took listeners in previously unseen directions. Black Up (Sub Pop, 2011) has been universally referred to as one of the best (if not the very best) albums of 2011. It’s psychedelic, hazy, jazz-fueled and lush, each track filled with dramatic echos and complex verses that siphon out the meaning from the language with crushing ciphers.
Thanks to their appearance on a track on Black Up, Seattle and Tacoma natives Stasia “Stas” Iron and Catherine “Cat” Harris-White aka Stas and Cat aka THEESatisfaction impressed Sub Pop enough to give them their own record deal as well, to which they replied with awE naturalE (Sub Pop, 2012) an album filled with poetic lyrical progressions and musings that on the surface may seem funny but are reactions to some very serious things. Stas and Cat break it down on everything from the political (“Earthseed”), the religious, (“Enchantruss”), and the unique experience of being a gay black woman in hip-hop.
The two units, though separate, share the commonality of being blessed by Baba Maraire’s insatiable instrumental curiosity, an innate ability to explore with the sounds coarsing through his veins from a lifetime steeped in the extraordinary Rhodesian/Zimbabwean Shona music shared by his family. His father, the late Dumisani Maraire, was a master performer of the mbira, a traditional instrument in the Shona culture of Zimbabwe & was instrumental in the introduction of Zimbabwean music to North America. This family connection is critical for me because when I listen to Shabazz Palaces and THEESatisfaction, I can hear this blessed union of spirits and masters, ancestors and architects, poetry, lyrics, soundscapes of immense proportions that have given the creators the opportunity to explore and express the meanings of anti-humanism, racial prejudice, destruction, love, redefining family, of consciousness and artistry amidst the chaos of modern society. Shabazz Palaces and THEESatisfaction not only want us to think about how we got to where we are, they want us to consider the weight of all that jazz even as we may choose to dance to forget the pain.
This will be a live show that should not be missed.
Funke + TamED Productions & Mme Oyinchile presents Shabazz Palaces + THEESatisfaction featuring performances by C’Beyohn and Malitia Malimob + DJ Mark Richens | May 1st, 2013 at The Rumba Room, 303 South Main, Memphis, TN 38103
Advance Tickets are $10 Thru Thursday 4/18 11:59 PM | $15 at the Door