Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Aesop Rock: Labor Days (2001)

(Definitive Jux)


I'm having trouble thinking of an individual story better-told, in any branch of pop music, than this album's "No Regrets," a shattering tale of love and art and satisfied death. I suppose we could delve into the Kinks' catalog and find some intricate character study like "Two Sisters" but who but Aesop Rock has ever thrown the words together in such a thrillingly precise, unfussy but eloquent manner?

That's one of the tracks when you can figure out what the hell he's talking about (the direct, perhaps overdramatic Clashism "9-5ers Anthem" is another example); after spending a few days with this in the car wondering whether it would be worthwhile to decipher enough of it to write intelligently about Aesop's fixations, I determined that it would be a futile gesture, unless I really need to work enough out of his Nazi and Justice League and Kraftwerk and refs to provide a commentary that won't say nearly as much as this wordy, complex music.

Aesop Rock is hardly a hip hop master; his delivery lacks emotional variance and often feels rote, or slavish to the material he recites. Still, not many rappers can compete with either the conceptual ambition of this record, worthy of Kanye West, or its working-class solidarity, worthy of the Roots or, hell, the Pogues. If you're looking for an incredibly dense, musically intriguing, smartly flowing record to keep you busy parsing out its ideas and thrusts for a good long while, this literate and fascinating cult moment should be near the top of your list. There's plenty of brainpower and funk in this hour of interjections and loops; it's pretty damn funny, too. "If the revolution ain't gonna be televised, then fuck, I prob'ly missed it."

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