Swerve . . .

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“Keep your swerve in control because it go out fast and come back slow.”  Wise words from the sagacious rap elder whose nearly 20 year career is, for all intents and purposes, perfect.  It certainly helps, of course, that the man is a patient hitter, swinging only when he know he can connect: Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space), Blowout Comb, Bright Black.  But Ishmael Butler knows all about going out fast and coming back slow.  Since the untimely dismise of Digable Planets, Butler has toiled in relative obscurity, releasing an excellent album and a couple of 12-inch singles as Cherrywine.  His sudden reemergence as Shabazz Palaces with a pair of self-released EPs last year was a surprising revelation, showing us that Butler was still to rap what key be to lock.  Now, in advance of his stellar Shabazz Palace debut, Black Up, comes “Swerve . . . The Reeping of All That is Worthwhile (Noir Not Withstanding),” a brilliant polemic in avant-garde verse.  “If you talk about it, it’s a show/if you move about it, then it’s a go,” Butler intones over a crunchy beat before unleashing braggadocio in a hypnotically surreal verse of near abstractions (“aqua-walking, laser-talking”).  But here’s the best part: “Swerve . . .” is just one track of 10 tracks on Black Up.  Having spent a week with the new album, let me just make this clear now: Black Up is likely to be the best hip hop album of the year.  Scratch that.  Black Up is likely to be one of the best albums of the year period.

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05 2011

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