Tête-à-Tête with Shabazz Palaces

KENZO had the pleasure of collaborating with Seattle-based Hip Hop collective Shabazz Palaces on our Spring/Summer 2014 mood video, directed by Kahlil Joseph. We caught up with the legend that is Ishmael Butler, who leads the group, to muse on California, Kahlil and making music.    

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KENZINE: Can you tell us a bit about Shabazz Palaces and your collaborators in the group?

Ishmael Butler: Shabazz collaborators are the black constellationaires themselves; Fly Guy Dai, Cat and Stas, Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, Nep Sidhu, OCNotes, Blood, Thadillac, Kahlil and so forth and so on. We further along the spaceways; we come in the name of WE, flossing game and jewelry, untamed and poised.

K: You have worked with Kahlil Joseph before, on your video for 'Black Up'. Tell us about your creative relationship.
I.B.: Kahlil is like Lester Young or Charlie Parker; his improvisations destined to become new rules, he asks himself unanswerable questions. He goes about explaining things 500 ways at once. Like a relentless basketball player, he is looking constantly for an opening - a lane, a back door cut to the alley hoop. The ball is an idea; the rim a portal to infinity. He is on offense forever. Winking knowingly at beauty; confirming their understanding of one another.

K: You were signed to Seattle-based SubPop records, and are now doing A&R for them yourself. How are you finding that?
I.B.: We are a music cult bent on world domination: our principals are music, donuts weed and humping. My initiation was tedious and temporally brutal (19 hours) but when I awoke in my cubicle, forest animals with human faces smiled from an orange sky upon me and I received a Mudhoney  t-shirt.  Oh and my pants were unzipped.


K: California is the home state of KENZO creative directors Carol and Humberto, and served as the umbrella influence for the KENZO Spring/Summer 2014 collections: a paradoxical place where huge sprawling cities are fenced in by mountains, ancient forests and the ocean. Which elements of California fascinate you most?
I.B.: The sun. Its seductive and rejuvenative power.  The blanket of light and warmth it lays across peoples’ psychology.  Its endless autocades and the daily ritual of burning smog.  The coastline and the vast ocean lapping at its edges.  The women.


K: Have you ever visited Paris? What did you think?
I.B.: I think I have lived in Paris in some life. I am comfortable there and familiar and when I arrive in the city, a former self is awakened so I cannot remain inside.


K: What was the last thing you saw, heard, felt or saw that moved you?
I.B.: My daughter over the phone say "hey dad".