Shabazz Palaces (part of Doomtree Zoo)
2 p.m. Oct. 3 • CHS Field • $35-$100
The go-to adjective ascribed to Shabazz Palaces is experimental. But that doesn't even scratch the surface of Ishmael Butler and Tendai "Baba" Maraire's multifaceted, oddly futurist hip-hop underworld. Exploring murky atmospheres and textures, Seattle-based Shabazz Palaces — which operates more like a collective featuring a variety of guests — takes their music to a place far more strange and interesting than their predecessors. And that's no surprise considering they're the first hip-hop act signed to Sub Pop. Much like their previous efforts, the latest album, Lese Majesty, refuses to subscribe to traditional rap conventions and breaks every so-called rule in the playbook.
Standout tracks: "Swerve ... The Reaping of All That Is Worthwhile," "Chuch," "Blastit"
Summed up with one line: "We run the latest theorems, they just re-rap the givens / They like talk first, we are observe and listen / Then shit you off the fiction plots and friction to the pistons."
8 p.m. Oct. 5 • 7th Street Entry • $15
Mick Jenkins is a brooder. His 2014 album The Water[s] is a heady mix of neurotic rambling that waxes intellectual and poetic without missing a beat — literally and figuratively. His recently-released followup, the aptly titled Waves, is less dismal content-wise, but still retains the Chicago emcee's gravelly urgency that made him so intriguing in the first place. And while Jenkin's raps can feel muddled and preachy at times, he more than makes up for it with relentless wordplay and uniquely cerebral lyricism.
Standout tracks: "Martyrs," "Alchemy," "P's and Q's"
Summed up with one line: "We are not on the same plateau, Cheateau de Chenocuea / You just throwing shade in my shadow, ginger ale in my Chalice, I never been champagne shallow."
Chance the Rapper
7:30 p.m. Oct. 13 • Myth • $45
Chance the Rapper is in a league of his own. Acid Rap, his stellar 2013 mixtape, showcased the eccentric emcee's dynamic vocals and undeniable pop smarts. Flanked by formidable collaborators that include Action Bronson and Childish Gambino, the album is a polished slab of playfully spry hip-hop that's peppered with elements of soul, gospel, and acid jazz. Much of that good-natured energy can be attributed to Chance's naturally endearing disposition. The Chicago rapper is neither enlightened nor hardened; he espouses a sort of feel-good sincerity that never feels forced or staid as he scats and spits his way toward every chorus.
In fact, Acid Rap was so successful that Chance received a contract to record with Kendrick Lamar's label Top Dawg Entertainment (which also features ScHoolboy Q and Ab-Soul), but ultimately decided to stay independent. Instead, he joined forces with his band Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment for their funk-infused debut Surf, which was released earlier this year to widespread acclaim. Chance is still an unknown to mainstream audiences, but he's a profoundly likable — not to mention talented — artist who carries some serious commercial potential. However, he's made it clear that what he does with that potential is entirely up to him.
Standout tracks: "Favorite Song (ft. Childish Gambino)," "Cocoa Butter Kisses, "Juice"
Summed up with one line: "And whys God's phone die every time I call on him? / If his son had a Twitter wonder if I would follow him."
8 p.m. Oct. 18 • Mill City Nights • $38
Even when it was tempting to dismiss Mac Miller as a frat-rap one-and-done emcee, you can't. Miller's 2011 debut album, Blue Slide Park, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts with no major label support. Since his meteoric rise to hip-hop stardom, Miller's gone from a degenerate party boy to a seriously introspective rapper with some serious chops to back it up.
Standout tracks: "Donald Trump," "Weekend (ft. Miguel)"
Summed up with one line: "Heisman hopefuls all growing up to be cops / Chasing after gangsters but they never find the G spot"
Run the Jewels
8 p.m. Oct. 23 • First Avenue • $25
Run the Jewels 2 was the most dynamic and consistently brilliant album of 2014. Helmed by Atlanta's militant rhymeslayer Killer Mike and underground rap pioneer El-P, the vociferous sophomore release was a unrivaled standout in a year that included highly acclaimed releases from Isaiah Rashad ("Clivia Demo"), ScHoolboy Q ("Oxymoron"), and Freddie Gibbs/Madlib ("Pinata"). RTJ2 isn't just a tremendous rap album; it's an incendiary indictment of all-things-bullshit and it takes no prisoners.
Standout tracks: "Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck) (ft. Zach De La Rocha)," "Oh My Darling, Don't Cry," "Banana Clipper (ft. Big Boi)"
Summed up with one line: "Like who really run this? / Like who really run that man that say he run this? / Who who really run that man that say he run run run run this?"