Photo by Jason Henry
If there was to be one hip-hop act at The Creators Project: San Francisco 2012, it had to be one that’s pushing the boundaries of the style’s definition. Shabazz Palaces fit the bill nicely. Almost 20 years after Ishmael Butler won a Grammy with the Digable Planets for “Cool Like Dat,” he’s traded in the slick jazz samples, classic break beats, and mellow fellow flow for abstract production and cryptic poetry. Instead of Doodlebug and Ladybug, he’s got percussionist Tendai Maraire by his side.
The result is futuristic, startlingly so at times. It comes to mind that this is what hip-hop would have sounded like by now if more artists and listeners had the courage to challenge the genre’s longstanding definition. The elements are all there, but the rules are gone. While Digable Planets was not the most conventional group of its age, Shabazz Palaces is a much farther fling from the standard, experimenting and redefining itself on almost every track.
The mix below is one that contrasts the two styles at opposite ends of Butler’s career—we’re going track for track between Digable Planets’ 90s chillers and Shabazz Palaces’ jams from the not so distant future.