Experimental hip hop in the most fluid way: Shabazz Palaces

Ishmael Butler and Tendai “Baba” Maraire, otherwise known as Shabazz Palaces, will be in İstanbul for the first time on 13th of November!

Interview: Busen Dostgül, Cem Kayıran – Illustration: Yağız Yılmaz

Seattle-based experimental hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces will be our guest in the second installment of our concert series with Babylon Bomonti, called Planet of Sound. So far the duo has been busy with the two LP’s from Sub Pop, dozens of remixes, singles, EP’s and mixtapes, and recently with a newly formed supergroup “WOKE” which includes Flying Lotus and Thundercat with Shabazz Palaces.

Just before their first concert in Istanbul, Ishmael Butler answered our questions about the duo’s background and their collaborative works.

Have you been to Istanbul before? What are your expectations about the city? What would you suggest the fans before the show?
I have dreamt of coming to the fascinating city and country since a little boy. I expect to be fascinated by the people and to be sensually excited.

Seattle is mostly popular for its grunge. I wonder if you ever were into grunge, or any of the bands associated with it at any point in life? 
Yes, I was into Alice In Chains.

Shabazz Palaces is an exciting act on the label’s catalogue. Was it your idea to work with Sub Pop or did Sub Pop come up with the offer? 
I knew of the label but did not think of it as a destination for the Sahibs Project. Our manager at the time suggested it to me.

What was the three year period between the release of your latest album and Black Up like? What did you do? Did you feel it was a long time period in between? 
We were fortunate enough to be touring pretty much the whole time. So it went by faster than it seemed.

You made “The Mystery of Lonnie The Don” song for Adult Swim Series. How does it feel to be a part of it? Have you followed a different path in terms of song writing for that release?
I was and remain an Adult Swim fan. To get the chance to do that was a dream because I have spent many nights watching [as] with my kids and girlfriends. I followed a similar song writing path as usual but my mainframe was specialized.

I had the chance to experience your live show twice this summer. One was in a huge stage in Primavera Sound and the other one was a cosy small beach stage in Beaches Brew. What kind of venues do you feel compatible with your music most?
The cozy small ones are the best I think but if the sound is good and we are performing after dark, the festivals can bang too.

Good luck with the new superband. Remembering the various projects you were involved with Thundercat and Flying Lotus, who was the first to bring up the idea to start this band? What does WOKE stand for? And you recorded the “The Lavishments of Light Looking”  with the legendary George Clinton. At what point Clinton was involved with the song? 
FlyLo is the catalyst. He brought everyone together. Clinton got involved last, like the Don should!

Let’s talk about your friendship with Flying Lotus. You were one of the guests on the Ideas+Drafts+Loops mixtape. Could you tell us the details of this collaboration?
When I go to Los Angeles, time permitting for both of us, I usually go to his crib and we vibe and make music. It’s one of my favorite things to do. He always teaches me some musical idea that changes my production outlook. 

You made amazing remixes for bands such as Battles, Adult Jazz and Animal Collective. What are the things that you look for before working on a remix? And how picky are you when working with remixes? What are your redlines?
I’ve been really fortunate to have some of my favorite bands in the world in my life ask me to remix. But I always appreciate being asked and usually will do it with no prob.

You have a mesmerizing short film of your album Black Up by Kahlil Joseph. It  really is a remarkable piece of work. Do you remember the first reactions of people around you to it? 
People were enthralled at the strangeness of it.

At the magazine, we’re huge fans of Chad Vangaalen. How was working with him for “Forerunner Foray” video? What was your role in the creation process of the video?
It was great. My role was strictly musical. He is the master. So you just let him go and be happy he’s doing it.

The snakes in your photos are kinda mysterious… Are they real snakes, and what’s the story? 
In the photo they are very real as are human snakes. So its best to keep them on gold leashes.