Sub Pop Records may be best known for introducing the world to Nirvana and playing an instrumental role in the grunge scene of the ’90s, but lately they’ve been riding another wave. With Shabazz Palaces and clipping., the label has established a lane in hip-hop, and it’s a lane unlike anything else the genre is seeing today.
In 2011, Sub Pop released Shabazz Palaces’ debut album Black Up. It was an experimental, alternative hip-hop album, but there was something truly unique about it. Unlike the heavy, industrial sounds of so much other hip-hop labeled “alt,” Shabazz Palaces had a touch of old school flavor. It wasn’t traditional by any means, but there were traces of the past. It was no coincidence.
Shabazz Palaces is led by Ishmael Butler, who had previously been known as Butterfly from the ’90s group Digable Planets. In 2013, Ishmael and Sub Pop took their relationship to the next level when the Shabazz frontman signed on as an A&R. “I don’t know that I would consider this a ‘real job’ like working at UPS or something,” Ishmael told Billboard. “For me it’s not about the employment aspect so much as further delving into the passion I have for music and proliferating it.”
Porter Ray released a slew of music in 2013 ( BLK GLD LP, WHT GLD and RSE GLD EPs), and his latest release is a free mixtape called Fundamentals. Like his hip-hop labelmates, Porter Ray blends the traditional with a forward-thinking approach, but there’s not as much abrasion. Whereas Shabazz and clipping. both takes things far into left field, Fundamentals boasts a more jazzy, laid back vibe. But even at its most fundamental, tracks like “Corner Bop,” “Fatal Attractions,” “166,” and “Meditate,” keep things unmistakably fresh.
Good call, Ishmael.
Porter Ray’s Sub Pop debut comes out in 2015. Until then, download Fundamentals below, and get familiar with an artist who’s on track to make waves.