40 Best Rap Albums of 2014

From Young Thugs to Old Droogs, Rich Gangs to broke MCs with expensive taste — the year's best in rhymes

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Shabazz Palaces, 'Lese Majesty'

24. Shabazz Palaces, 'Lese Majesty'

The marvelously dense Lese Majesty may be the most surreal album to come from Seattle's Black Constellation unit. It's not so much a suite of overlapping songs as thought balloons from leader Ishmael Butler. Sounds swerve from the shoegaze drone of "Dawn in Luxor" (where he testifies how "blackness is abstracted and protracted by the purest"), to the dubby bass of "They Come in Gold," the loping fusion jazz of "The Ballad of Lt. Maj. Winnings," and the booty bass shake of "#Cake," perhaps the group's most accessible moment. Lese Majesty evokes post-millennial, futurist images of black kings and queens, a "New Black Wave," with enigmatic sounds as mysteriously intoxicating as any produced this year. M.R.

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