There is a such thing as being too talented. Most often, this problem manifests itself, as in Aesop Rock's case, when an artist releases an album they could never possibly top. "Appleseed" is the only abstract hip-hop album I truly enjoy front to back. That being said, maybe my hopes for "Float" were a little high, so it stands to follow I would be dissapointed somewhat. "Float" is by no means bad, actually, it's an extremely dope album and I think everyone should own a copy or two. I just would have liked to see Aesop hit the world up with a full length as strong as his previous work.
When I think about it, though, having an Aesop Rock full length as strong as "Appleseed" may be a contradiction in terms. What may have been the best part about his earlier EP is its brevity; you hit play and, before you know what happened, it's over and you have to listen to it again to catch all the lines between the lines between the lines. So you listen to it again. Every time I listened to it, which I did for about three weeks straight, I caught something I missed before. You would think that "Float" would have even more longevity, but it turns out just to drag a bit. Presented with more crazy-ass hip-hop poetry than before, I guess I got jaded or overwhelmed or something and, by the 20th track, my brain hurt. I don't exactly know why "Float" has to be as long as it is, because lots of the tracks blend together. The atmospheric beats under "Garbage," "Fascination" and "Spare a Match" are all tight. I like them all, but they all sound so similar and I could have done with just one.
"Float" also suffers because it is so damn uneven. I really dig "Basic Cable," but, honestly, it makes so much sense that it sounds really out of place. The same thing goes with "6B Panorama." I like less vague work, like his 'fuck conformity' anthem "Commencement at the Obediance Academy" and the awesomely desperate "How To Be a Carpenter," but becoming too specific hurts the album. Similarly, Vast Aire's battle-typed guest appearence on "Attention Span" got me fiending for that Can Ox 12" (which I'm too damn broke to get yet), but sounds out of place next to Aesop Rock's style. These more down-to-earth cuts may pull in more traditional hip-hoppers, but I feel it hurts the album somewhat. (Is this the mad underground version of selling out? Just kidding.) Also, "Commencement at the Obediance Academy" is the second song on the album, but it pre-dates everything else. It's one of my favorites, but the changes in his style are evident and the song ends up sounding awkward.
Of course, "Float" is definately not without it's high points. Every single beat is on point and I mean every single one. There is not a single beat on here that I don't like, so mad props to Blockhead and Aesop himself (remember how I said he was too talented?). Lyrically, Aesop is always nice, I don't even know where to begin quoting. My picks are "Big Bang," "Attention Span" and, although Slug is greatly dissapointing, Aesop Rock tears shit up on "I'll Be OK." "Drawbridge," the duet w/ Dose One, is also tight. The album's finale, "The Mayor and the Crook," starts off with one of my favorite lines: "No more pencils, no more books/I built a city out one brick and had a mayor and a crook/I made the crook stab the mayor, then slay himself in the guilt/I saw the brick back migrating east, now let's build."
Like I said, I don't think "Float" is bad at all, but it just didn't quite live up to what I wanted it to be. It is, however, a dope album with equally dope beats and a step in the right direction for experimental hip-hop. Plus, Aesop Rock just got signed to Company Flow's new label, Def Jux, so hopefully this will mean bigger and better things and maybe even a tour. Or something.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 10 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9 of 10
Originally posted: December 5, 2000