Shabazz Palaces – Lese Majesty Review

This is far from the worst album of the year, but it is easily one of the most disappointing.
Sub Pop, 2014
Purchase: Amazon

5.4 / 10

To hear the Metacritic page say it, Shabazz Palaces’s second album, Lese Majesty, is a groundbreaking piece of experimental hip-hop that only the smart people will understand. Understand that I’m the biggest supporter of experimental hip-hop on Earbuddy, though, and I can’t understand how anyone would arrive at that conclusion. Actually, scratch that—it’s because Shabazz Palaces made it, and therefore, it is good, you just need to figure out why it’s good.

The problem here is just how insubstantial the music is. Lese Majesty’s format, with short track lengths and songs frequently cutting off and being continued in the following track, suggests that it is to be listened to in one sitting. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach so long as the overall piece has enough big ideas to explore, but the impression I got was that the band chopped individual songs into multiple tracks and tried to pass it off as something insightful, which is perhaps one of the worst ways to conjure cohesion. The result is that Lese Majesty always feels like it stutters right when it’s about to get going, and while it never sounds anything worse than decent, that it is fifteen minutes longer than Black Up and feels a hundred times less fulfilling speaks volumes.

And there will be someone who will wave me off as someone who doesn’t get it. They are correct—I don’t understand the wisdom of watering down your sound and putting out an album with this sort of structure when the material demands a more respectful approach, both for its own sake and for the audience. There are some great songs on here, to be sure, but I don’t want to have to wallow through this album to get to “Motion Sickness” and “#CAKE”. Lese Majesty is far from the worst album I’ve heard so far this year, but it is easily one of the most disappointing.

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