Shabazz Palaces (Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire) makes music that sounds like what might happen if Sun Ra played hip-hop. Afro-futurist and socially conscious, the duo's songs are also just plain weird. Butler's a former member of Digable Planets, among the most influential early hip-hop bands; my co-host this week, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, says he loves Shabazz and has an aesthetic debt to repay to Butler.
"I was raised on a bunch of writers," Marc says, "from Toni Morrison to Sonia Sanchez to George Orwell to Alice Walker, but the writers who most shaped my literary sensibilities were MCs like KRS-ONE, Chuck D of Public Enemy, and folks in the Native Tongues crew. The group that really brought it all together for me at a critical moment of my life was Digable Planets with the song 'La Femme Fetal,' basically the cut that made me think I could be a poet too." Perhaps Butler and Shabazz Palaces will inspire you too. They perform at the Ritz in San Jose on Feb. 20, and at the Chapel on Feb. 21 as part of Noise Pop; details here.