Aesop Rock – Skelethon (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
CD / DL / LP
Available now

A fine example of playful production and funk-based 21st century hip hop from the former label-mate of EL-P.  

Aesop Rock is yet another survivor of the Def Jux fallout. Since the label’s ”˜indefinite hiatus’ (read: collapse) in 2010, the life of Ian Matthias Bavitz has taken some strange and unusual turns.

When Def Jux went under Rock had not released an album since 2007 (”˜None Shall Pass’) and in the half decade since that release, he claims that he has been working consistently on this offering, associated collaborations and his style in general. This proclamation of tireless industriousness is entirely justifiable once ”˜Skelethon’ is investigated.

Def Jux was EL-P’s label and there is no small significance in these artists releasing albums within a matter of weeks of each other (read my EL-P review here). Both are still coming to terms with the loss of label mate and personal friend Camu Tao (1977-208), who passed away from Lung Cancer. This is something which Rock refers to in a lyric when he mentions being unable to remove dead friends’ numbers from his phone.

The similarities don’t end there. EL-P’s highly stylised, industrial beats bleed somewhat into this recording. Aesop Rock’s production is, however, a great deal more playful and funk based. Some of the guitar loops and distorted drums are reminiscent of a ”˜Check Your Head’ era Beastie Boys. It drifts into mutilated seventies rock on tracks like ”˜Grace’ and then to obscure Lo-Fi experimentation (with a little assistance from Ex-”˜Moldy Peaches’ member Kimya Dawson) on ”˜Crows 1 & 2′.

Standout tracks include the delightfully playful and sinister ”˜Homemade Mummy’ (which evokes memories of Dr Octagon/Kool Keith at his finest), ”˜Racing Stripes’ and the fantastically infectious ”˜ZZZ Top’

The album was promoted with a series of videos in which Rock digs up his dead cat ”˜Whiskers’ and takes him for a walk around the city whilst simultaneously warding off the grim reaper. I’ve included the first one below.

Lyrically, as with most Aesop Rock albums, it ranges from the captivating to the indecipherable (often within the same verse) and, at times, almost frustratingly oblique. I enjoy a challenge within my music though, especially with my hip hop and I am certain that what seems initially inaccessible will open up over time and reveal more as I become more familiar with it.

Aesop Rock has most certainly hit his stride with ”˜Skelethon’; this sixth studio album has a completeness and density which was not always present. The exciting thing about this 55 Min record is that it is almost exhausting in regards to the sheer amount of content contained within.

A well-executed and constructed album; this is a fine example of what 21st Century Hip Hop can achieve. Here’s to the future.

All words by Colin McCracken. You can read more from Colin on LTW here, on his website or follow him on Twitter.

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