How much is too much?
Wordsmith Aesop Rock has always been, for lack of better word, dense. Like afredo-sauce dense. More than ten years on from the purchase of the album I’m still trying to untangle the metaphors, similes, and references that litter this album. But unlike alfredo sauce, which always starts off great but just becomes overwhelming by the end (ok, I’ll stop), Aesop Rock’s arguably best album, Labor Days, only gets better with every listen.
Whenever the day-to-day grind starts to get me down, I always like coming back to this album as source of inspiration. It’s not a victory lap, it’s more of documentary of the highs and lows that you go through trying make a dream of yours come true. Look at what is probably the most straight forward song on the album, No Regrets, a song that tells the story of the girl who does what she has to do to accomplish her goal, despite what others think of what she’s doing. Other standouts include the excellent 9-5ers Anthem, with its call to arms chorus that anyone with a dream can relate to, the hip-hop’s-not dead Save Yourself, and the infinitely quotable Daylight: “Life’s not a bitch, life is a beautiful woman, you all call her a bitch cause she wouldn’t let you get that pussy”. All in all, there really isn’t a weak song on the album and all the songs, without going into too much detail, feed into the overarching theme of creativity, hopes and dreams and how easy it is to lose sight of them if not acted upon.
It also must be said that the beats and the production, which was largely split between partner in crime Blockhead and Aesop himself, with help from Omega One on Coma, has aged remarkably well over the last nearly 15 years. They have a real organic feel to them, as almost they were play live, a testament to the quality of production on the album. Also, given the wordiness of Aesop’s style, it also helps that the trio of producers know just the right amount of sound and melody to add to the mix without making it sound too skeletal or too crowded.
But, as much as I could gush on and on about how much I love this album or how much it means to me, I perfectly aware that this album will NOT appeal to everyone. As previously stated, Aesop Rock is not immediate. Often his message can be obscured behind multiple layers of dense wordplay and if you’re not up for trying to decode layers and layers of esoteric references and obtuse metaphors, then I wouldn’t blame you. But just like all the best media (in my humble opinion), if you allow it, and take the time to really get into what is being said, it can be one of the most inspiring albums you ever hear (certainly in hip-hop, that’s for sure). So if you think lyricism is what’s lacking in hip-hop, and for some reason haven’t heard of this album that came out more than a decade ago, I highly recommend checking out this sometimes dark, sometimes humorous, but always inspired take on the struggles of an artist.
“This cat is asking if I’ve seen his bit of lost passion; I told ’em ‘yeah’ but only when I pedal past him.” –Daylight
3) Save Yourself
5) No Regrets
6) One Brick ft. Illogic
7) The Tugboat Complex Pt. 3
11) Bent Left ft. C-Rayz Waltz
12) The Yes and Y’all
13) 9-5ers Anthem