Yes, technically speaking, Shabazz Palaces is a rap group. But that sort of classification is about as accurate as calling Bitches Brew a jazz record or Captain Beefheart a rock star. Sure, it gets you in the right galaxy, but it does nothing to describe the bizarre constellation of fractured beats, warped vocals and occult imagery the group has formed during their six years together.
The Seattle-based duo’s lead voice — Ishmael Butler (formerly of Digable Planets) — has often used “abstract” to describe the Shabazz Palaces sound, which might be best interpreted to mean that nothing he and producer Tendai Maraire craft is concrete.
Butler and Maraire cryptically released two EPs before emerging from hiding in 2011 with their shadowy full-length Black Out. Their latest, 2014’s Lese Majesty, has seen the group plunge deeper into abstraction: Maraire’s mutated psychedelia moves between bangers like “#CAKE” and woozier, atmospheric interludes while Butler delivers lines like “blackness is protracted and abstracted by the purest.”
On stage, the group has been known to bring in live percussion and other instrumentation from Maraire’s native Zimbabwe to further evoke the otherworldly feel of their records.
Better still, the group chose a worthy opener to guide us into the Shabazz Palaces world in THEESatisfaction singer SassyBlack, whose eastern-inflected vocals and space-funk sound orbits in the same sonic constellation.
Sassy Black and Porter Ray join Shabazz Palaces 8:30 pm Saturday, Jan. 30, at WOW Hall; $12 adv., $15 door.