• Record Label: Sub Pop
  • Release Date: Jun 28, 2011

Universal acclaim - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 33 out of 36
  2. Negative: 0 out of 36
Buy On
  1. Mind-blowing and catchy, Black Up is an album too progressive to pass up. Get on this as soon as possible.
  2. Jun 30, 2011
    As the mainstream becomes more and more predictable, Shabazz Palaces' inscrutability is a welcome change. Because the beats are so abstract, roots take precedent, and a strong presence on the microphone becomes the most important aspect.
  3. Jun 21, 2011
    Black Up is far from a fuzzy, unfocused indie-rap document. Butler's rhymes remain lyrical and tight, musing on desire and motivation, artistic freedom and Afro-American identity, in a way that should appeal to the Talib Kweli fans out there.
  4. Shabazz Palaces have pushed the music forward, so that it once again can be raw, real, and unconventional.
  5. Aug 3, 2011
    Any adventurous soul with both Drake and Sun Ra back to back on his or her iPod will most certainly be able to get down with this truly unique hip-hop experience.
  6. Jul 5, 2011
    Black Up is a wild ride, but Butler's songwriting is not haphazard. To be sure, his laid-black flow channels a vibe similar to the who-cares attitude of those on the opposite side of the left-field hip-hop divide, but don't let that fool you; his music is weird, but it's also deliberate.
  7. Jun 28, 2011
    Like on that grand finale the production on Black Up is meticulous but furtive, always pushing forward, often unwilling simply to loop. And Butler's rapping sounds perfectly at home in this sometimes chaotic environment, kicking it amidst the kinetic verve of his beats.
  8. 70
    Black Up is best digested as a whole rather than tune by tune.
  9. Jun 24, 2011
    Though the harsh synth textures and borderline-disjointed edits from the EPs remain, the record as a whole is simultaneously hazier and more distinct: more fine detail in the cavernous reverb, more impact with every tumbling, hypercompressed stack of drum samples.
  10. Entertainment Weekly
    Aug 10, 2011
    It's a shame that Palaceer Lazaro uses his nee project to spit flimsy verses about back-in-the-day cliches. [1 Jul 2011, p.74]
  11. Play loud. I can't speak to the listening practices of the post-illbient beatmakers whose tricks Palaceer Lazaro gathers together and improves on like he's just been waiting for the go-ahead from Tricky himself.
  12. Jun 21, 2011
    Following a pair of brilliant EPs, Shabazz attacks with Black Up.
  13. Mojo
    Nov 22, 2011
    In the category of great rap reinventions, file it next to Daniel Dumile's post-KMD rebirth as MF Doom and Ultramagnetic's MC Kool Keith re-training as Dr. Octagon. [Aug. 2011, p. 94]
  14. 80
    On his Sub Pop debut, he's sliced off the excess, preachy rhetoric for something inventive, bold and brilliantly fresh.
  15. Aug 9, 2011
    This is hip-hop that doesn't attack; it drifts. Black Up is full of ghostly howls and weird barely-there percussion, devoid of anything like a single.
  16. Jul 21, 2011
    Yes, there are some jazz and soul influences here and a few earnest lyrics, but this is way more dark, futuristic and cutting-edge than you'd guess.
  17. Jun 27, 2011
    It's deeply refreshing to hear an artist who exudes such depth and consideration.
  18. Jun 28, 2011
    This is an album with a brilliant sound, one that is as arresting to listen to as it is to puzzle over.
  19. Jun 27, 2011
    If there's been a better album, hip-hop or not, out this year, I haven't heard it.
  20. Q Magazine
    Aug 8, 2011
    Unsurprisingly, their music proves equally mysterious, the lava-like bass and shuddering beats suggesting a familiarity with dubstep's experimental margins. [Aug. 2011, p. 116]
  21. Mar 13, 2012
    Shabazz Palaces created an album that is deep, dense, cryptic, hypnotic, and beautiful in its own freaky way.
  22. Aug 1, 2011
    While some of Black Up isn't a million miles from his former group's darker corners, it's not particularly like much else. It's all present tense, in a way too little is, and brash, bold, and weird about it. Per one of his more baffling lines: "up, or don't toss it at all."
  23. Aug 15, 2011
    Reborn as Palaceer Lazaro in Shabazz Palaces, the rapper still waxes poetic with the old boho bounce as he lounges in the club or decries the evils of American culture.
  24. Jun 28, 2011
    Black Up reveals Shabazz Palaces as an artist much more in line with the future, voicing his dissatisfaction by carving his own path.
  25. Jun 21, 2011
    He still enigmatically declares solidarity with the urban proletariat and critiques pop-culture clichés, but Black Up impresses most with its beguiling sounds.
  26. Jul 11, 2011
    Black Up is at first mind-bending and perhaps confusing in its production and aesthetic, making it easy to lump in with fringe rap artists cLOUDDEAD. But to do so ignores the visceral qualities of the album, both in Butler's lyrics and in the production.
  27. Jun 28, 2011
    A killer second act.
  28. Jun 21, 2011
    It's difficult to decide whether Butler's thing is psychedelic thuggishness or thuggish psychedelia, and he probably doesn't intend for us to figure it out. Either way, he's done the near-impossible in creating a sound that's wholly fresh and grows richer with every listen.
  29. Jun 27, 2011
    Black Up, their full-length debut, connects black consciousness with the dark mysteries of deep space, synthesising tribal drums, kalimba and African inflections with fragmented beats and eerie, futuristic synths.
  30. 60
    Themes of lust, power politics and rebellion are smuggled in via unusual locutions, de-synchronous beats and treated sample-loops – interesting stuff, though occasionally one yearns for a decent tune.
  31. 80
    The calm rhymes juggle thoughts of black identity, paranoia, lust and possibility. Yes, hip-hop still has an audacious progressive fringe.
  32. The Wire
    Aug 12, 2011
    There's a lingering sense of calculation to their weirdness, the feeling that this is someone's specific idea of what next-level hiphop is supposed to sound like and not the type of batshit creativity bursts that can lead to truly transcendent experimental hiphop.
  33. Uncut
    Jul 28, 2011
    There's an earworm-like lure in every track. [Aug 2011, p.98]
  34. Jul 1, 2011
    Black Up points toward hip-hop as a source of headphone albums as the Seattle collaborative offers intriguingly fractured surfaces under their vocals, alternating brain-tweaking minimalism with jarringly complex rhythms and vinyl-ripped ephemera.
  35. Jul 5, 2011
    That's Black Up's predicament: It wants to be experienced viscerally, but it's being stripped of life by over-intellectualization.
  36. Jun 30, 2011
    What's likely to stick out first and foremost on the 10 tracks that comprise Black Up are the beats.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 48 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 42 out of 48
  2. Negative: 4 out of 48
  1. Jun 30, 2011
    Without any hype or press, Ish puts out the best hip-hop album of 2011. The production is crazy. It sounds kinda wonky with maybe some rootsWithout any hype or press, Ish puts out the best hip-hop album of 2011. The production is crazy. It sounds kinda wonky with maybe some roots in dubstep, but ultimately it sounds like nothing else out there. It's a smart and contemplative album all being spat out from a likable and charismatic MC who doesn't even gather the spotlight because all of the elements just fit so well. This is a album for hip-hop enthusiasts, electronic music enthusiasts and all music enthusiasts that are open for experimentation and a possibly mind altering experience. Full Review »
  2. Jun 30, 2011
    A breath of fresh air into the realm of hip hop. This album is not only one of the most original hip hop albums released in the past decade,A breath of fresh air into the realm of hip hop. This album is not only one of the most original hip hop albums released in the past decade, but possibly the best overall album of the year. These songs contain immense layers and constantly take unexpected turns, resulting in a stimulating listening experience even after repeated listens. Don't be surprised if this is on every music blog's top 5 list come December. Full Review »
  3. Jun 28, 2011
    What the hell? I am so so in to this, yet so disturbed and yet... so intrigued. Great songs. Great ambience. This is the type of stuff thatWhat the hell? I am so so in to this, yet so disturbed and yet... so intrigued. Great songs. Great ambience. This is the type of stuff that probably goes on inside the cells of LSD. Full Review »