Shabazz Palaces

Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star

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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman

In the age of compact discs, tombstone-sized vinyl editions for one album, and endless playlists, 78 minutes of music split in half seems peculiar, but there are significant distinctions between the two Shabazz Palaces full-lengths that landed in 2017. After Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines was created primarily during multiple sessions in Marina del Rey with co-producer Sunny Levine, Ishmael Butler reconnected in Seattle with longtime associate Erik Blood for the purpose of cutting bonus tracks. Instead, during two weeks, a full-blown sequel was laid down with help from a smaller group of musicians not including SP percussionist Tendai Maraire. Among the more atypical tracks is the triumphant "Shine a Light," which with its incorporation of a certain malt-shop banger sounds like nothing else in the SP discography. Butler, not as the character Quazarz, lets loose inscrutable and personal lines alike, one moment musing "How that llama repeat sound hella sweet," and later, flashing a grin, expressing love to his father. Indeed, there's a little more life and alertness to this set than there is in the dread-laced first volume. Instead of coming from a distanced observer or some being in a zombie-like state, this is more energized and direct, sometimes scathing, with jibes like "I see sellouts, clowns, coons, staring empty-minded at the moon" delivered with seething disdain. Butler's approach, whether the rapper is or isn't portraying a visitor, still remains mostly low-key patter loaded with code, slang, and jargon that necessitates a few listens for full decryption. Overall, the beats here are funkier and a little more jagged than they are on the preceding volume, highlighted by the whomping bassline on "Moon Whip Quäz," Thundercat's bob-and-prickle low end on "Since C.A.Y.A.," and what resembles a contorted hybrid of Prince's "Delirious" and Urban Tribe's "At Peace with Concrete" on "That's How City Life Goes."

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