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Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.
Editors Note: Shabazz Palaces' Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star is the first of two albums that Ishmael Butler plans to release next week. When you're done here, we recommend listening to his second installment, Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines.
In thermodynamics, black bodies are both perfect absorbers and emitters of radiant energy. That seeming contradiction would not be lost on one Palaceer Lazaro, better known as Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces, who continues to find far-out ways to reflect and refract the sound and fury of popular culture and contemporary blackness.
Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star, out on Sub Pop on July 14 alongside Quazarz Vs. The Jealous Machines, pushes an interstellar narrative that's equal parts absurd and real. It's the story of Quazarz, a sentient being and musical emissary sent to "Amurderca" where he finds "brutality and alt facts and death masquerading as connectivity."
More to the point, imagine an alternate universe where the trappings of success lead hip-hop's anti-heroes to devise their own trap. Sound too close to home? Well, that's exactly what the protagonist encounters among the "ethers of the Migosphere here on Drake world." But Quazarz hasn't come to destroy; he's come to deconstruct and shine a light.
"Have you ever wondered why we all have the same dream / who installed this and what does it mean?" he asks at the start of "Fine Ass Hairdresser," questioning the repetitive aesthetics before deadpanning the pre-programmed response: "I got my money, I got my honey, I got my gunny; I'm straight."
The sonic parody is powered by the kind of instant-vintage yet dissonant electro haze Shabazz Palace fans have come to expect and love, featuring credited players Thundercat, Darrius Willrich, Loud Eyes Lou, Thaddillac, and long-time collaborator Blood. It's a cosmic trip.
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