Seattle hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces brought its weird, funky hip-hop stylings to Detroit’s Magic Stick on Friday, and the red-hot show was one of the best, most creative shows of the year so far.
The group – Palaceer Lazaro (ex-Digable Planets member Ishmael Butler) and Tendai ‘Baba’ Maraire — brought its world of off-kilter, fractured electronic hip-hop to full life at the 85-minute concert. Lazaro and Maraire each played a multitude of instruments, with Lazaro working a laptop and a pair of samplers while handing vocal duties and Maraire playing conga drums, hi-hat cymbals, a thumb piano and more, while also working a sampler and providing backing vocals. It was a lot to take on — did I mention they also had choreographed dance moves? — but the group made it work, creating complicated sounds and rhythm patterns that wrapped themselves around you until you found yourself in the center of them, unsure of how you got there and unaware of a way out. They did this again and again, with the reverb and echo on Lazaro’s vocals making his voice sound like another instrument in the mix. It was engrossing.
Lazaro didn’t address the crowd, other than throwing mentions of Detroit in a few songs and thanking fans “for coming to check it out” — as if it was all some new kind of experiment — at the end of the show. By that time, Lazaro was seeming like the coolest guy in the room, and Shabazz Palaces made its case for being one of the strongest, most individual groups in hip-hop.