Shabazz Palaces : Exotic Birds of Prey

shabazz palaces exotic birds of prey

Shabazz Palaces, Ishmael Butler of Digable Planets fame’s more-or-less solo project, stopped making important records years ago. Their only truly important record was their debut, 2011’s superlative Black Up, still one of the best god damn rap records of that decade and one which showed in the midst of the early avant experiments of Kanye and his cohort that the old guard still had fresh lessons to teach. Generously, one might also include the two Quazarz records, the pinnacle from a certain vantage of the avant-electrorap the group pursued on their first two brilliant EPs, GOAT-tier debut and messier second record. Beyond that, however, it’s a hard sell that any of the rest is important, a status the group seemed to lose with the reception of Lese Majesty, their underrated but still slightly diminished followup to Black Up‘s extremely skeletal, surreal hip-hop, like a melting head in an eclectic wax museum.

Granted, when you are part of Digable Planets, one of the most lauded alternative/jazz rap acts of the ’90s, and you notched major plaudits with your debut LP in a new project, what need have you of importance? Everything since The Don of Diamond Dreams is something a bit more street, a bit more punk, a bit more… well, hip-hop, feeling more like scattered mixtapes of fun ideas rather than a collection meant to be important, to say something, to change the game. Each track feels at first like they come from different galaxies, one channeling austere goth vibes, another dirty southern funk, yet another having electro freakouts. Previous records might have seen Butler attempting to meld these ideas into a single polyformal track, or least, like Black Up, creating a suite of these disparate shards, letting them bleed into one another. On Exotic Birds, it’s much more informal, letting each idea stand on its own, tossed casually off by one of the sharpest minds in rap.

It does, admittedly, bring the record down, at least in a certain sense. Like many good-but-not-great mixtapes, you wonder if you’ll ever throw it on after that initial honeymoon period as you work to isolate which beats and bars will stick in your rolodex inside your head and which will be consigned to the dustbin forever. This, however, is okay; the modality of this kind of rap record is one shared with punk and black metal demos and 7-inches, with electronic music singles, with endless remixes. They are not designed to last but instead to be part of the flesh of your days, to bubble up and score an afternoon, a day, a summer, then fade.

There’s little doubt in my mind that, like its counterpart in Robed in Rareness or even the LP before that, it will disappear from view even among many fans in weeks or months following its release. But this high-temporality of the material doesn’t diminish the intrigue and breadth of ear and mind shown on it. I think briefly of that wonderfully weird period in Snoop’s career where he was dropping records in all sorts of genres one after the other, seemingly attempting to burn down his legacy while accidentally making himself substantially more aesthetically exciting instead. Exotic Birds of Prey doesn’t strike me as having the same kind of staying power as those projects (7 Days of Funk still gets heavy playtime by me; great record!). But the jazz-like perpetual play of a mind like Butler is one we should be rejoicing for anyway. The days of important records, at least for now, seem to be done for him. But there’s still dope tunes. That’s enough.

Label: Sub Pop

Year: 2024

Similar Albums:

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top