[phlipcam video] Shabazz Palaces @ the Middle East

Monday's shouldn't be that cool. Not in the literal, temperature-wise sense of course. It was actually quite humid last night -- with the Middle East's ceiling either leaking or sweating. Rather, I'm talking cool in the sense that Ishmael Butler wore linen shorts and rapped in a non-associative flow, resembling what most rappers would sound like if they actually ingested as much lean as they typically boast on. And Tendai Maraire glided over a bongo/cymbal/drum pad set-up while rocking a belt buckle that featured what was either a silver lion or Robert Patrick's character from Terminator 2. In fact, SHABAZZ PALACES were so damn cool last night that they were able to perform "Girl You Know It's True"-indebted dance moves throughout most of their show and still draw one of the biggest audience pops I've ever witnessed at the Cambridge basement venue.

The reasoning behind the staggering admiration? Probably because the duo have intentionally cast themselves in a shroud of mystery, via a number of evasive pen names and a carefully curated occult-like aura. And yet, there they were in front of us, unfurling their limited catalog (two EPs and a 2011 LP) into something that seemed never ending in the context of last night's show. Their recorded output exist within a largely uncharted pocket that melds cool jazz and psychedelic-tinged hip-hop. Interesting enough as is, but their concert incorporates a live electronic aspect, with Maraire's drum pad and Butler's Roland sampler inciting random neck jerks, hand claps, and finger snaps. I think they even managed to draw a shoulder shimmy or two out of my weekend-worn self.

Their 75-minute set wasn't without its uncool moments though. Sound issues with Butler's microphone left him inaudible throughout the opening number. But this only afforded the duo a second wave of rapt adoration upon resolution.

It's difficult to instruct other hip-hop acts to take notes because there's really no one even approaching their interstellar lane -- in terms of song structure, aesthetic presentation, and after last night, live performance. So I guess you could just cooly implore everyone else to clear some space out so they can space out.

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