Cultural Consumption: 2/22/24

Dealing with the Don of Diamond Dreams

Cultural Consumption: 2/22/24
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Today's soundtrack comes to us courtesy of my pal Steven Louis, who is a culture writer in his own right, and who recently quipped to me that he was planning a trip to Seattle, a city that "was a pretty big deal for music in the '90s." When I played along, he started in about "a label called Sub Pop," but he derailed the bit by making a passing mention of Shabazz Palaces, a name I'd heard but A) couldn't remember why, and B) had no idea was a Sub Pop act.

You may think — you likely think, I would venture to guess — that you've never heard a note of anything Shabazz Palaces has ever done. But if you're thinking this, then you are likely incorrect, because Shabazz Palaces is essentially (at least currently) a one-man group led by Ishmael Butler, a.k.a. Palaceer Lazaro, a.k.a. Butterfly from Digable Planets. Odds are high that at least once in your life, you've heard the Planets' sole hit, the early '90s heavy rotation sensation "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)."

See? I told you you'd heard something Shabazz Palaces had done. But make no mistake — Digable Planets sounds zero percent like anything Butler/Lazaro/etc. has been up to lately. I spent the day listening to 2020's The Don of Diamond Dreams LP, which is ten tracks and 42 minutes of dense, dark, dreamlike hip-hop. And when I say "dreamlike," I don't mean floaty, sunset-cloud stuff like, I dunno, PM Dawn or something; I mean the dreams you have that are kind of unsettling for reasons you can't quite put your finger on. Dreams in which people you've never met but still feel like you know are talking to you, but they aren't making any sense. Dreams that don't necessarily leave you feeling good, but also don't really qualify as nightmares.

I've actually seen Shabazz Palaces referred to as "horrorcore," and although I'm not familiar enough with what qualifies as horrorcore to comment on this either way, I do have a 16-year-old at home who listens to a lot of clipping., and I know those dudes fit under the umbrella. In general, at least based on this particular album, I would say Shabazz Palaces is a good deal less doomy than clipping., but there's still an audible darkness drifting throughout these songs. Not in an off-putting way, at least in my opinion — just enough to make you feel like these are strange and serious songs that may contain entire worlds full of ideas.

Watching: Friends, I am here to tell you that I am digging the shit out of being able to stream Northern Exposure. Whoever handled the digital transfer did a wonderful job of making this old show look great, and I'm enjoying it just as much as I did while sporadically tuning in during the show's original run. I'm currently up to S1 E6, which aired close to the conclusion of its first season as a mid-year replacement and largely centers on the unorthodox relationship between 62-year-old Holling and 18-year-old Shelly — specifically his discovery that she's been married the entire time they've been living together. This is a story that... probably would not make it to any sort of airwave in 2024, but it's handled well. If you've got Prime, and you have a fondness for rural quirk, tune in.

Reading: At last I am free of those goobers in Journey, but reading Nick DeRiso's Journey: Worlds Apart has apparently given me the non-fiction bug for the first time in a few years — I'm now on to Hits, Flops, and Other Illusions: My Fortysomething Years in Hollywood, by director Ed Zwick.

Elsewhere: This has been a spotty week for Cultural Consumption, so I'm kind of tardy in mentioning this, but my latest General Hospital column for Diagnosis Daytime is here, and there's also a new episode of the Record Player for your enjoyment: Matt and I were joined by Ultimate Classic Rock head honcho (and my former boss) Matthew Wilkening for a discussion celebrating 50 years of the first Kiss album. (Yes, you fuckers, I listened to it for the first time while preparing for the show.) Check it out here, or wherever you get your favorite podcasts:

The 1974 Project: Kiss - Kiss - The Record Player
The latest episode of The 1974 Project finds Jeff and Matt teaming up with Matthew Wilkening of Ultimate Classic Rock to discuss the self-titled debut album by Kiss, which was released on February 18, 1974. But the conversation covers a lot of ter…

Around the Corner: Tomorrow will bring another edition of New Music Friday — and Saturday will bring a new series to paid subscribers. I think you'll enjoy it!