A film about Northwest hip-hop from 2017
Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star
The 1991 novel Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis tells the story of an alien who experiences time backward, and who is perplexed by all our human behavior throughout the 20th century, where people become sick after visiting the hospital, and where the Holocaust births millions of new humans. Shabazz Palaces’s twin 2017 albums are concepted around a similar tale: Quazarz, the extraterrestrial, trying to make sense of contemporary America: Our capitalism, our fake news, our police brutality, and our smartphone obsessions. Throughout the verses, you’ll recognize your own habits and values reflected back, and see them as equally perplexing and strange. This second record, Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star, was originally conceived of as bonus material for the first (Jealous Machines) before taking on a life of its own. Songs have a stasis, a hazy quality, echoes of spare drums, and barely-there beats that stubbornly refuse to groove. Still, tracks like “Eel Dreams” and the Kraftwerk-inspired “Moon Whip Quäz” find their own abstract way to rock, taking you on a mystical space-travel journey. Overall, there’s an ease to the music on this record, an exploration of artists hanging out and playing and innovating, unconcerned with convention or commercial viability. Influences pull from everywhere: improvisation, sampler-based free-jazz, indie, and prog-rock, fusing the sound waves into a truly unique sonic landscape. This record opens your eyes. We’re all Quazarz. Our world is a confusing and magical place.