Aesop Rock :: None Shall Pass
Definitive Jux Records
Author: Matt Tomer
Discussing Aesop Rock is as much of an adventure as listening to his raps.
Stylistically, he is unlike any rapper in the history of the genre.
Comparisons have always been impossible to make - spitting in a nasally
grumble, the celebrated Def Jukie's claim to fame has been spinning
abstract, arguably nonsensical narratives, leaving fans split on whether the
New York emcee is indeed a lyrical genius... or a crazy, random bastard. As
such, he's become a hot topic - his relationship with heads remains almost
universally loved or hated - for every loyal fan there's a naysayer. Or three.
I won't front like me and Aes Rock are always on the same page (who is)
but like all his previous efforts, he once again manages to throw fucked-up
ideas at my brain until it starts to hurt. Yeah, it's a bit of a difficult
record. And it isn't even one of those things where you have to be "in the
mood" to "get into it" - fans often find themselves forcing the album down
their throats, in vain, to simply understand just what the fuck is going on.
For these reasons "None Shall Pass" will continue to thoroughly piss off the detractors.
Whatever your stance, Aes continues to defy hip-hop barriers. "I've got the
whole world thinkin' it's a holiday, 'cause they can smell the chum in the
water from miles away." Being this is supposedly Aes' most personal record,
one can only speculate what he's getting at with such a line. But like a
teasing novel, it gives the audience a certain amount of freedom to decide
for themselves. It's difficult to recognize points of improvement or decline
with such lyrical creativity, but his voice is less irritating than it once
was... maybe he's cut back on the twelve packs-a-day or something.
Longtime collaborator Blockhead's beats are tight, although different, while
Aesop's production remains almost perfect for his own style. The beats work
with the rhymes as a product of cohesion - not so much because they're funky
all by themselves. The overall sound is similar to "Bazooka Tooth," but is
comparatively settled down... the tracks don't bang and blitz quite as much,
in favor of a more chilled vibe. This has its pros and cons, as "None Shall
Pass" is both easier to follow and brew over, but lacks a degree of abstract excitement.
The experimentation of sampling different genres (particularly quirky rock
and even blues) is interesting, but probably doesn't work as well as
planned. All the beats fit - as components of Aes Rock's twisted narratives
they work well, but as free standing instrumentals only a handful could hold
together. The melancholic soul of Blockhead's production on "Labor Days" is
sorely missed (with exception for the outstanding title track), although
there are gems to be found. "Fumes" slithers with shivering bass and
menacing strings, and "Coffee" sounds like a dope '80's pop reincarnation
(if that's possible).
"None Shall Pass" is a record you can listen to over and over, simply in
trying to decipher exactly what's being said, adding almost infinite replay
value. Every song is a gorgeously peculiar collage (or is it peculiarly
gorgeous...) - and whether I'm clear on it or not, I'll let Aesop continue to
run circles around me. "None Shall Pass," Aesop's fifth album, should not disappoint
his loyal following.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 8.5 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: August 28, 2007