#22. Shabazz Palaces, Black Up
Label: Sub Pop
Released: June 28
When you listen to Black Up for the first time, it's not easy to put your finger on exactly what's going on. The Seattle group led by Ishmael Butler (formerly known as "Butterfly" of Digable Planets) is undeniably hip-hop, but they take things in an artistically experimental direction without ever letting things get overwhelmingly weird or grating.
The result is a sometimes jazzy, sometimes electronic-sounding project that tingles with an energy unlike any other hip-hop album of the year. One of the most refreshing projects of the year, this was a welcome break from the club banger formula that dominated the radio.