Jay-Z, "Smile" - On his 12th studio album 4:44, Jay-Z finally gets introspective about his life, his mistakes , and his place in the cultural zeitgeist. "Smile" is the moment on the album where his uncanny technical abilities as an mc intersects with a strain of personal story telling we've never heard from him before. The result is a beautiful, head spinning trip through the racked mind of arguably the biggest living legend hip hop has today.
Shabazz Palaces, "Shine a Light" - Seattle native Ishmael Butler’s of Digable Planets is one half of Shabazz Palaces, a free-form hip-hop project that emerged from the internet ether about eight years ago. He continues to defy convention with a pair of companion albums (Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star / Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines) that examine contemporary America as if it's a strange and dangerous planet. "Shine a Light" is the most conventional song between the two albums but still manages to showcase Butler's knack for pushing hip hop production into unexpected places.