Review Summary: Lese Majesty boldly goes where most of the minds in the current hip-hop scene couldn’t even fathom.
Arranged into 7 different suites, Lese Majesty takes the more spacey and ethereal soundscapes from Black Up and expands them into yet another psychedelic journey, this time thrusting listeners into the furthest reaches of the cosmos. From start to finish, this record plays out like the score to a modern day Stanley Kubert film. Frontman Ishmael Butler’s lyrics are strung together with a playful incoherence, his vocals often layered so densely over top of one another or so gratuitously drenched in effects that deciphering what is being said becomes damn near incomprehensible. On several listens, it becomes easier to digest that whether these lyrics have any concrete meaning is largely irrelevant. Shabazz Palaces provide the listener with the sonic equivalent of a Jodorowskian visual experience. While listeners may draw their own conclusions on lyrical symbolism and meaning, Lese Majesty is decidedly more experiential: providing the sensation that the listener is exploring celestial realms far beyond human comprehension.
The other half of Shabazz Palaces, multi-instrumentalist Tendai Maraire, often steals much of the spotlight. The effects driven nature of the album is a driving force behind the record’s success, resulting in one long, formless entity. “Dawn in Luxor” lulls the listener into a sort of euphoric trance; its weightless synths carrying the listener gradually into the sonic equivalent of a cosmic void. Samples such as the one used on “They Come In Gold” are as “out there” as they come, with a dense texture similar to many of Black Up’s more intriguing sonic experiments. Admittedly, some may find these experiments off-putting (being much less of an accessible entity than its predecessor). Regardless, the journey through the soundscapes of Lese Majesty
remain engaging throughout.
boldly goes where most of the minds in the current hip-hop scene couldn’t even fathom. This album makes Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon albums feel like Bicentennial Man in comparison. Sub Pop Records continue to deliver some of the most intriguing and enlightening hip-hop of the year. In fact, I can think of no other hip-hop album of 2014 that sounds as refreshingly left-field and un-hip hop as Lese Majesty. And given the end results, that might be exactly what the genre needs right about now.