British experimental-music mag The Wire has one of the first published reviews of Shabazz Palaces' Black Up on stands—remember them?—now (page 60 of the June 2011 issue). Writer Andrew Nosnitsky offers grudging praise for the Seattle hiphop group's Sub Pop debut album.
It feels a little like the record The Jungle Brothers would be making today, had they not succumbed to the conservative callings of the neo-hip House and instead continued their hard lean into the experimentation of J Beez With The Remedy. Set on top of dubstep wobbles, kitchen sink concrète, stop/go breaks and loose jazzy tangents that throw back to Digable days, Shabazz's heady exercises in wordplay are dense and close to indigestible, but they do reward proper marination. Still there's a lingering sense of calculation to their weirdness, the feeling that this is someone's specific idea of what next-level hiphop is supposed to sound like (a very 90s approach in itself) and not the type of batshit creativity bursts that can lead to truly transcendent experimental hiphop.
I've only heard a few tracks from Black Up, but Nosnitsky's critique seems a bit miserly. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I think amazing weird music rarely happens without calculation, and "someone's specific idea of what next-level hiphop is supposed to sound like" is no bad thing in my mind. Shabazz aren't really the "batshit" types, but their cool-headed, steely-eyed scheming and scrupulous adventurousness already have resulted in plenty of "transcendent experimental hiphop," and I suspect more will be forthcoming on Black Up.