More than satisfying: THEEShabazz experience

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Your host, Palaceer Lazzaro. Photo by Mike Ramos

To call the two hours Shabazz Palaces and THEESatisfaction spent onstage at Neumo’s last night a “set” or “concert” would be selling it way, way short. It was a performance, a talk show, a Q&A session and a running dialogue with a sold-out crowd all rolled into one massive experience that defied any conventional description.

Ish Butler, aka Palaceer Lazzaro, was your MC for the evening, and not just in a rap context. He acted as the master of ceremonies, commanding the mic and engaging the crowd both during and between songs. After the show’s relatively normal start – a stretch of THEESatisfaction’s cuts with Butler and Tendai Maraire backing them up with some added live instrumentation – the first of many non-musical interludes began.

Butler took a seat in a boss-like wicker chair as THEESat’s Stas and Cat joined him on an adjacent couch. They exchanged banter and took questions from the audience, throwing any formality out the window and giving the entire set a feel that was more like an ongoing, ad-libbed conversation than a staged presentation. Stas called Butler out for his shirtless, jacketed and gold-chained getup. Butler “interviewed” THEESatisfaction and asked if they smoked weed, and with family members in the audience they responded, “No, but we wrote a song about it” before going into another stretch of their material.

THEESat with Lazzaro. Photo by Mike Ramos

Musically speaking, the two groups kind of intermixed and traded off alternating three and four-song stints, with many performed together. THEESatisfaction’s shades-on swagger was set to an all-time high with Butler and Maraire backing their songs up with MPCs, congas and Maraire’s impressive array of African instruments.

Shabazz Palaces were on some next-level grown-man rap shit as usual. Butler’s sneering flows darting through crushing bass knocks that slapped so hard that I could literally felt it rattling the bones in my legs. And at one point toward the end of the show, Sub Pop General Manager (both groups’ new label) Megan Jasper and Shabazz manager Jonathan Moore took a seat on the onstage couch while both groups to performed a new “demo” song for them that absolutely killed. Look out for those LPs due out this Spring.

And as for all the non-music stuff? Butler offered a chance to hang out in the green room with “all the air you can breathe” to a person who could recite a 4-bar section from any Shabazz track (the response was alarmingly low). Some backup dancers came onstage during “Hottabatch” and performed a crowd-captivating routine. As for that Q&A session, it’s always interesting when you give random people from the crowd a microphone.

Shabazz Palaces dancers. Photo by Mike Ramos

One dude asked when the LP was due out (this May). Another wondered where SP gets their samples (everywhere – records, YouTube clips, etc. – and Chocolate Chuck apparently gets his at Safeway). A middle-aged woman asked if Butler was married/could take his jacket off for her (a flat-out NO). And fucking KIMYA DAWSON from The Moldy Peaches asked for a “sandwich hug” from THEESatisfaction (they recognized her right away and happily obliged).

Then one guy dropped the quintessential “when will Seattle hip-hop blow up” question (inciting a semi-collective groan from the crowd). Butler responded in the best possible way, saying something to the effect of “man, everyone in Seattle hip-hop is doing their thing up here just fine” which turned the groans into cheers and whoops.

That sentiment pretty much summed up the evening. Where else can you go and see something like what I just tried (most likely in vain) to describe? Two groups collaborating onstage, engaging the audience like they’re part of the family, performing some avantgarde, otherworldly rap that is unlike anything coming out today. Last night is what it’s all about, people. Make sure you’re paying attention.

Mike Ramos

About Mike Ramos

Mike Ramos is an awful person who was born in ancient Hong Kong. He is over 3,000 years old and remembers the names of all the forgotten gods. He is 90 stories tall, and his adventures are legendary.