It's one thing to file Ishmael Butler alongside Kool Keith (a.k.a. Dr. Octagon) and Zev Love X (a.k.a. MF Doom) in the list of second-act hip-hop success stories who found new fame—and new audiences—under a revamped identity. But telling anyone peeling the cellophane off their just-bought copy of Blowout Comb in 1994 that the MC once known as Butterfly would go on to helm a group of Shabazz Palaces' caliber? That wouldn't be that much of a shock—even if you did throw in the fact that they're signed to Sub Pop. The suede-dagger flow and undercurrents of militant pride that informed his lyrics on classic Digable Planets cuts like "Black Ego" and "Rebirth of Slick" carry through to the finest moments of 2010's Black Up—only now, they're divorced from expectations, convention, and traditional structure, earning comparisons to the free-jazz vanguard of the early '60s. Simultaneously imposing and liberating, it's a sound and an ethos that pulls every avant-garde tendency of underground hip hop into focus just long enough to point out where it's darting away from. Instantly accessible it isn't, but Shabazz Palaces' modus operandi never loses sight of how much humanity and empathy exists inside the impulse to push those limits. 18+.
Tue., April 3, 7:30 p.m., 2012