The first hip-hop crew signed to the Sub Pop label, Shabazz Palaces is the brainchild of Ishmael "Butterfly" Butler, although the Digable Planets member wasn’t so quick to admit it. In 2009, Shabazz Palaces released two EPs -- one self-titled, the other titled Of Light -- but Butler's name didn't appear on either. No promo shots, no social networking sites, no interviews, and no press releases were issued by the enigmatic, Seattle-based project, but that didn't stop the local press from throwing praise at these EPs, which hit much harder than Digable while retaining that forward-thinking wordplay. The EPs became favorites at the Sub Pop offices, too, and in 2010, the usually indie rock label signed the project, releasing their debut album, Black Up, in 2011. Next, it transpired that Tendai Maraire -- son of the famous mbira player Dumisani Maraire -- was responsible for most of the instrumentation on that record and that Shabazz Palaces was, in effect, a duo.
Both Butler and Maraire were relatively quiet in the ensuing years, but found time to make a guest appearance on AwE NaturalE, the 2012 debut by fellow Seattle alternative hip-hop duo THEESatisfaction. The pair also teamed up with Hussein Kalonji to create the March 2014 album riZe vadZimu riZe under the Chimurenga Renaissance moniker, before they returned that same year with a second Shabazz Palaces studio album, Lese Majesty. ~ David Jeffries & James Wilkinson