Aesop Rock - Labor Days album cover

Aesop Rock
Labor Days (2001)

Definitive Jux

By: Bryan Gutridge

Aesop Rock photo

A common pedagogical tool is to possess different standards for different students depending upon ability. Simply creating something that is objectively skilled does not necessarily denote a positive grade if one is not working at their full potential. From one perspective this can be seen as actually punishing the more capable student, but its desired effect is to push these students to fulfill their possibilities and not allow them to float by and rest on their laurels. Possessing talent has a price: people tend to expect more.

There is no doubt amongst fans, detractors or critics that Aesop Rock is an incredibly talented MC. His delivery leaves one wondering if perhaps he watched too many Micromachine commercials as a child. The speed with which he creates his rhymes is sometimes daunting often requiring multiple listens in order to understand just how his images can be so intelligent and witty. Love or hate him, Ace has got the skill. However, that does not necessarily lead to amazing albums.

Labor Days is a modern classic, and if you don’t own it, stop reading this and go buy it now. Since then Ace has struggled to produce an album that lives up to that show of skill: Bazooka Tooth was disappointing, and his Fast Cars EP sold more based on the fact that it contained a complete lyric book than any real promising new tracks. So, what to make of his new effort None Shall Pass?

From looking over his past albums it becomes clear that Ace sinks or swims based on the production, and when it comes down to it he should stay in front of the mic and not be making the beats (this is one of the reasons for Tooth’s failure).

Aesop Rock photo

Fortunately for us, Ace’s partner in crime Blockhead is featured heavily on the boards and once again drops some really choice canvases for Ace to paint. However, Rock seems unwilling to relinquish complete control and almost half the tracks on the album showcases his often less than stellar production.

Style wise this record is nothing new for Ace Rock. Reeling in himself from the manic, unapproachable sounds of Tooth, None Shall Pass finds the MC on familiar ground with dark yet funky beats, solid sampling and minimal guest spots rhyming about everything under the sun, literally: he dedicates one song to discussing Pluto’s struggle of star vs planet. At least that I think that is he’s talking about. I guess we’ll have to wait for the next lyric book to try and parse this complicated MC’s meanings.

This album certainly fits under the “success” category and for fans feinding for a new Aesop Rock record, its been four years since Tooth, pick this one up, but for those seeking the next great thing to come out of the Def Jux crew I would have to point you towards El-P’s latest outing.

Choice cuts: None Shall Pass, Bring Back Pluto, Coffee, This Harbor Is Yours


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All opinions expressed by Bryan Gutridge are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.


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