Ishmael Butler

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Ishmael Butler
Ishmael Butler in 2019
Ishmael Butler in 2019
Background information
Birth nameIshmael Reginald Butler
Also known as
  • Ish
  • Cherrywine
  • Butterfly
  • Cheewa
  • Palaceer Lazaro
Born (1969-07-03) July 3, 1969 (age 52)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
GenresHip hop
  • Rapper
  • record producer
  • songwriter
Years active1987–present
Associated acts

Ishmael Reginald Butler (born July 3, 1969) is an American rapper, record producer and songwriter. He is best known for his work with such groups as Digable Planets in the 1990s and Shabazz Palaces in the 2010s.[1][2][3][4][5]

Early life[edit]

Butler, who is a native of Seattle, was born in 1969. His father was a history professor at the University of Virginia. He first forayed into music by playing the alto saxophone in his middle school jazz band. In 1987, he graduated from Garfield High School[6] and moved to Massachusetts to enroll in college.[7]


In 1989, Butler dropped out of college and moved to Brooklyn, where he recorded a demo of hip hop tracks, which was eventually delivered to the Pendulum Records executive Ruben Rodriguez. In 1992, Butler auditioned to Pendulum Records with his friends Craig Irving, from Philadelphia, and Mary Ann Vieira, from Washington, D.C, forming Digable Planets.[7] Digable Planets' 1992 single "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" achieved commercial and critical success, charting on Billboard Hot 100. Known for merging hip hop with jazz and philosophical lyrics,[8][9] the group released two albums before disbanding in the mid-1990s. Following Digable Planets' demise, Butler recorded music under the alias Cherrywine and took film classes at New York University. In 2003, he returned to Seattle to take care of his mother.[2]

In 2009, Butler formed Shabazz Palaces with his neighbor Tendai Maraire. After self-releasing two EPs, the duo signed to Sub Pop Records, releasing their debut album, Black Up, in 2011.[2] Its follow-up, Lese Majesty, was released in 2014.[5]

Butler also became a member of Sub Pop’s A&R team in 2013.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Butler has a son named Jazz Ishmael Butler, known professionally as Lil Tracy, from a previous relationship with Coko Gamble, the lead singer of SWV.[11]



  1. ^ "Unlocking The Eclectic". July 20, 2014. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Sci-Fi Beats With a Pacific Flavor". The New York Times. August 3, 2014. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  3. ^ "Left-Field Hip-Hop, Coherently Disjointed". The New York Times. October 18, 2010. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  4. ^ Nitsuh Abebe. "Shabazz Palaces: Steely, Brilliant Hip-Hop Mysticism". Vulture. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Won't Black Down: Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces Takes a Royal Stance in His Music". SF Weekly. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  6. ^ Uitti, Jake (December 24, 2015). "Ishmael Butler travels back in time with Digable Planets reunion". Seattle Times. Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Frere-Jones, Sasha (August 29, 2011). "Organized Confusion". New Yorker. Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  8. ^ "Life in Their Soul-er System Is Slick--It's 'Cool Like Dat' : Pop: With its blend of jazz and hip-hop--and philosophical musings--Digable Planets is grooving to raves and a Top 10 single". latimes. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  9. ^ "Digable Planets' Jazzy Raps". The New York Times. March 7, 1993. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  10. ^ Ugwu, Reggie (August 12, 2013). "Sub Pop Signs Shabazz Palaces' Ishmael Butler to A&R Team". Billboard. Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  11. ^ Angell, Jack. "Lil Tracy is getting better". The Fader. Retrieved March 19, 2020.

External links[edit]