I'm not joking when I say the hippest music column in the country right now is the "Playlist" column in the Sunday New York Times. Every week "Playlist" rounds up the latest noteworthy and experimental rock, pop, jazz, and classical CD releases—writing about everything from the Psychic Paramount to Lykke Li to Jamie Woon with inimitable New York Times clarity.
So, it was great to see Seattle hip hop act Shabazz Palaces' debut "Black Up" get the NYT treatment on Sunday.
Mr. Butler and his collaborators build tracks out of glitches and crackles, deep industrial throbs and analog synthesizer chirps, thumb-piano plinks and ghostly voices. The beats aim only for the most distant corners of the dance floor, or elsewhere entirely. The calm rhymes juggle thoughts of black identity, paranoia, lust and possibility. Yes, hip-hop still has an audacious progressive fringe.