Shabazz Palaces’ 2011 debut Black Up had a luxurious sleekness to its sound and a fiery political charge to its lyrics—qualities that it shared with Watch the Throne, which was released just a few weeks later—but with far less concern for pleasing a pop-oriented audience. For their new album, Lese Majesty, the duo has responded to Black Up’s surprising success by pushing even further out with even more political intensity, even weirder beats, and much weirder promo photos.
Lese Majesty isn’t as easily accessible their first album, with song structures that consistently refuse to follow standard pop blueprints. But beat-maker Fly Guy ‘Dai and MC Palaceer Lazaro (aka former Digable Planets member Ishmael Butler) make sure to provide enough hooks to help listeners get on their deconstructionist level. A lot of them come on “#CAKE,” which is the closest thing to radio-friendly that the album gets, with a warped take on an old-school electro-rap beat and lyrics that walk a line between club-friendly sing-along and psychedelic chanting.
The song’s video, directed by Hiro Murai, who’s helmed videos for St. Vincent and Earl Sweatshirt, gives the song a visual identity that’s just as trippy, full of giant snakes and spinning crowns inhabiting wrecked warehouses. Between this and the new Nicki Minaj video, it’s been a good week for mixing rap music and surreal imagery.