If the Big Bang is the year zero, at the year 9 billion microscopic life formed on Earth. At the year 10 billion bacteria started to use the sun to make food. Somewhere near the year 12 billion multi-cellular life forms. And around the year 12.5 billion diversity of life appears, including animals with eyes. But the exhibit listed 2 numbers for each moment in time and you could travel forward or backward -- one relative to us ("years ago") and the other relative to the big bang ("since the big bang"). I chose to start with the Big Bang and move forward through the exhibit from there and was humbled when I thought about how little the number 2010 means in the larger scheme of things.
We are something and nothing in that picture simultaneously, such is the beauty of void and life -- of light and darkness.
This was the vast context for witnessing the enigmatic Shabazz Palaces stroll through New York earlier this month as part of Fader Mag's "One Step Beyond" concert series at The American Museum of Natural History.
But the exhibit on the Big Bang wasn't the center of the show by any means. Shabazz recited fan favorites from the album along with two tracks we've never heard (check out the video for a look). What the group does best is attempt to embody a universal balance. "Led" (they don't like to talk about leaders) by former Digable Planets member Butterfly, one of the lyrics on a track called "Capital 5" off their self-titled album goes, "Ima be a bright light on the dark side of town."
How does a funky, jazzy, bouncy personality like Butterfly morph into a gangster-rapper beasting over beastly guttural beats (some with Kalimbas!) about chicken grease, survival with style, walking the tight rope of intelligence and relevance, breaking bread with the least among us, and the spiral of time? Such is the beauty of Shabazz Palaces.
The butterfly is not the final metamorphosis, after all.