Hip Hop

Lese Majesty (CD)
Led by Ishmael Butler (formerly ‘Butterfly’ of Digable Planets) and multi-instrumentalist Tendai ‘Baba’ Maraire, Seattle duo Shabazz Palaces take hip-hop out of the streets and into the astral plane. Their 2011 debut Black Up was a critically acclaimed space age masterpiece with fragmented beats over dark, hallucinatory soundscapes. The follow up, Lese Majesty, continues where Black Up left off while sprawling into other dimensions of sound and space. Featuring 18 songs grouped into seven suites, the album expands rather than drags, showcasing Tendai’s dilated rhythmic mastery and Ishmael’s inimitable way with words. With a playing time of 45 minutes, Lese Majesty takes us back to an age when musicians embraced the long player format. Each song beautifully melts into the next one to create a mood instead of just another hit. Like a galactic sonic roller coaster, Shabazz Palaces are challenging and expanding the hip-hop landscape, taking it to the moon and beyond. Read more
Reality Testing (CD)

Shimmering electronic beatiness courtesy of the Nottingham-based producer Matt Cutler. An exceptional craftsman, Cutler's lush excursions into nu-rave and garage helped him make a name as one of the most detail-oriented beauty-dealers in contemporary electronic music. Now, he has returned, two years down the line from his exquisite Galaxy Garden with a record more steeped in the chunky rhythms of American hip-hop and its crossovers with early Detroit and Chicago techno sounds. While the hip-hop often appears as soul-orchestral sampledelia or Chicago-housey jazz-piano stabs, Cutler's concern goes beyond mere texture or settling for a clean genre imitation. Never one to shy from melody, these songs are laced with Blade Runner synth-leads bouncing and swerving like a light-cycle or a particularly excellent screensaver. Every song on the album is packed with beautiful details, far away voices, momentary percussive rattles, odd filters at just the right time. Potentially less clubby than previous releases but still packed with enough bangers to please the heads on the dance floor.

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Just Be Free (CD)

The massively entertaining and likable entertainer known as Big Freedia is known as the queen of sissy bounce, placing her queerness front and center alongside relentless, pulse-pounding beats and call-and-response chants. Until now, though, it was a little hard to get through an entire Big Freedia album without feeling exhausted. Just Be Free is Big Freedia’s moment to step into the mainstream, and she does so successfully without dumbing down her sound. “Dangerous’” bullet-fire beats and Big Freedia’s command to wiggle make it impossible not to oblige. “N O Bounce” calls out her hometown of New Orleans (home of sissy bounce) with some jazzy horns and piano alongside a crushing beat and cut up vocals looped hypnotically. The uninitiated still might feel overwhelmed by Just Be Free’s non-stop onslaught—listening is a little like being in the most intense workout session of your life. But we’d rather hear her still uninhibited rather than soften the songs with pointless ballads or something. When Big Freedia shouts “RELEASE YOUR WIGGLE, RELEASE YOUR ANGER, RELEASE YOUR MIND, RELEASE YOUR JOB” on “Explode,” it’s best to give in.

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