Aesop Rock - Skelethon

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4.59

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"Skelethon's" sounds are varied, but all play to Aesop's netherworld mausoleum space-opera style.

Aesop Rock has come a long way in the independent Rap game. After self-releasing his debut, Music for Earthworms, the Northport, New York native brought his brand of hyperintelligent rap to Mush Records via Float, and then spent a decade on Def Jux until the beloved label went on hiatus. Now, Aes Rizzle has found an appropriate home on independent staple Rhymesayers Entertainment, with Skelethon being his first release on the renowned label.

“Leisureforce” is loud and sprawling, as Aesop’s voice cuts through ethereal strings and frenetic drums. “Fryerstarter” sees the rhymes get more deliberate and the production get minimalistic. Over assorted synth stabs, Aesop continues to show he is completely not intimidated  by the prospect of taking center stage with his rhymes. On “Ruby,” he puts on his storytelling hat: “July fourth, 1981, candles of a Roman ilk / Unloaded from a Chevy truck into the home her folks had built / Patio was charcoals and extended fam and folding chairs / Safely arched around the yard focus on the smoking flares / Couple cousins, uncles, aunts, mostly grown-ups, couple brats / Baby Ruby’s only two, she’s too close to the jumping jacks / Mommy scoops her to the house, buckles up the booster seat /...Telephone distracting mom, Ruby wriggles out her strap / Fingers press the Plexiglas, she’s off into the sour patch.” Fans will have to listen to the cut to hear the rest of the tale, but rest assured, this is premier Hip Hop storytelling on display. The production for much of the short cut (it clocks in at 2:33) is little more than tones, adding to the tension that the gripping narrative already provides.

Skelethon’s sounds are varied, but all play to Aesop’s netherworld mausoleum space-opera style. The sounds are often industrial and alien, and elements of El-P and Blockhead seem to have influenced Aesop’s work behind the boards, though neither appears on the album. “Racing Stripes” isn’t quite so heavy-handed, and affords the project a little diversity with its funky bass line. For the most part, though, the listener will be barraged with synthy echoes that are only a bit less abrasive that Aesop’s voice. This isn’t necessarily a complaint; Aesop is welcome to whatever style he chooses—the execution is what matters. In that respect, the project can drag at times as homogenous aesthetics can weigh heavily at times.

Take “Saturn Missiles” as an example of fantastic execution: the beat changes midway through to match Aesop’s switching flow. Also, throughout the project, Aesop does an outstanding job in accentuating certain words and lines for optimum effect with a marriage between the production and delivery. The sounds here are smartly put-together, so even if Aesop’s music isn’t necessarily accessible, it is always intelligent.

Aesop Rock’s style is such that his releases don’t have “something for everyone,” as many emcees claim to. That’s not his goal, and that’s not why he’s survived in the Hip Hop game for over 15 years. Ultimately, fans of Aesop will love this release, but those who have yet to find a reason to listen to his music won’t find one here.

64 Comments

  • John

    My favs are Labor Days and None Shall Pass but this album grew on me and there are some great tracks. I missed Blockhead on this one. It's a 3.5 for me personally.

  • Anonymous

    5/5. Once again HipHopDX fucks over a dope artist.

  • Sonny Rene

    This review is horrible. This album is at least a 4 if you listen without any bias. The beats and rhymes on Skelethon are extremely original which is rare these days. Aesop Rock is easily in the top 10 lyricist of all time, this man is stunning as an emcee. The fact that he produced this album in it's entirety is amazing to me because the beats are incredible. It's no surprise this album took 5 years to make. In my opinion this is definitely Aesop Rocks best album to date.

  • Steve

    Best album of 2012, hands down.

  • Rick Nice

    It's a great album, his best yet. Skelethon is composed complex storytelling over some rough drums and atmospheric riffs. It can be bleak (Leisureforce), it can be playful (Racing Stripes), it can be uptempo (Saturn Missiles) and it can throw a dope strut (Dokken Rules). Where many of his peers have moved on to live instruments with the occasional sample, Aesop Rock's still constructing music around samples - and it works a charm! He's done as well as anyone could using a standard hip-hop template because he's done it inventively and simply. He assumes his audience are intelligent and imaginative and just runs with that notion. One thing that would be cool would be to hear some musicians and instrument solos on his next album (a la El-P's "I'll sleep when you're dead"), just to hear what his views on 'complete' songs and 'epic' albums would be. That's what a fifth star requires. I would recommend this album to underground heads, rock fans and alternative beats fans. Nothing here for the Cheryl Cole brigade.

  • Lovar

    All I can say is wow to this album. I say 5/5 overall. The fact that it is entirely self produced is amazing. The rhythmic and synth based sounds along with the unique yet sparatic type drums set a perfect tone for aesops voice and style. The intelligent and obviously metaphoric writing style he uses perplexes me and tests me on a regular basis. I was nervous over he last few years that he was done, but once again he snuck right in to blow up the hip hop scene. For someone who's been killing it since music for earthworms in 97 I must say this is his best album yet which I didn't think I could at after labor days. One of the few artists out there Getting better with time. Props to Aesop rock for keeping it real, sticking to his roots and putting out skelethon. Got it on vinyl and the cherry red is fresh. Much love.

  • bert

    I love the replay value of this album. Aesop Rock is flat-out amazing!

  • Wesley Vaughan

    Agreed this is absolutely gold! Never really been a big Aesop Rock fan but he really shines on this album. This is a release that you could take to the grave and you would still be finding new meanings to each line. Don't even get me started on the production lets just say that he found the perfect harmony behind the boards and in front of the mic. Really looking forward to exploring his discography with a more keen ear.

  • steve

    I honestly thought a lot of this album was hard to wade through, and I'm a huge Aes fan. Killer Mike and El-P's albums are far better so maybe i was hoping for too much, but there are almost no memorable beats and too often I wanted there to be a Hail Mary Mallon type of accessibility on songs.

  • Kevdog

    There's no way in hell this album should've gotten below a 4. DX is trippin. This is the current frontrunner for album of the year. This is Aesop Rock's best album. For a cat that arguable already has a classic in "Labor Days", this is a triumph. He is one of the top 5 emcees working today. Period. The fact that he produced the entire album is also stunning. Can't say enough about this album. Skelethon in what it means to elevate the game.

  • Anonymous

    yall CANT go and look at reviews before u listen to the project. listen. let it sink in. then look at other ppls opinions. then debate. to do the opposite is gunna corrupt ur own expectations and opinions. not saying everyone. but most. 5/5 here.

    • Anon...

      That's if your a fan but if you've never listened or heard to/of Aesop Rock your obviously gonna check reviews to see if your gonna check it out.

  • Uniek

    For true underground heads only

    • Common purpose

      this album is brilliant. the onamonapia filler is sweet I love that he produced the whole thing he is too intelligent for most humans and any negative comments to his work I Ussually write off as ignorance. aes isnt perfect, but he doesnt put out garbage music ever. ps kimya dawson is a great addition.

    • Anonymous

      is that good or bad?

  • Dom

    Pretty disapointed with a 3.5 when REKS stays gettin 4s.

  • jordan

    Crap review, just lazy, whether you like the album or not. (1) Don't quote a verse line-for-line for over 1/3 of your review! We don't need a lyric sheet. (2) "In that respect, the project can drag at times as homogenous aesthetics can weigh heavily at times." You're criticizing the album as repetitive while using redundant phrasing within your sentence. If you can't write 20 words without repeating yourself, how can you criticize?

  • 2da9thpwr

    I have no issue with you hating his voice, my issue as described in my previous reply which you probably read but failed to understand is this part: 'He should just producer' (what ever the f*ck that means). In a way you can understand-ME DON'T LIKE MEANING OF YOUR FIRST WORDS IN COMMENT.

  • Anonymous

    He should just producer. The voice is dodgy.

    • Anonymous

      I don't understand........ Firstly you said that trying to understand him must hurt my head. Secondly you said that you didn't like how I phrased my comment. Thirdly you referred to my typo. And finally it's something about being a republican. Hence, the flip flopping comment. Then you say I obviously don't understand... You've changed what your problem is with each post after realising that you've made errors. And then I need to apologise for an opinion! You've got it backwards, you insulted me first. All I said was that I don't like Aesop's voice. However, I enjoy the beats. I'm so so sorry for having an opinion kind sir. Anyway, it's been fun. Enjoy the music.

    • 2da9thpwr

      Flip flopping? Oh, you're a Republican right? Well I reread it and seems cut and dry to me when you compare it to the context of your initial comment. Whether you understand the intention of the comment or not does not bother me. To simplify it further, I was offended by your audacity nothing more and nothing less. Either apologize or F*ckoff.

    • Anonymous

      lol. Reread your first post. That wasn't what you were concerned about. There is some flip flopping going on here. And I realised there was a typo in my first post as soon as i posted it. Thanks for pointing that out though.

    • 2da9thpwr

      I have no issue with you hating his voice, my issue as described in my previous reply which you probably read but failed to understand is this part: 'He should just producer' (what ever the f*ck that means). In a way you can understand-ME DON'T LIKE MEANING OF YOUR FIRST WORDS IN COMMENT.

    • Anonymous

      It was obviously an opinion. It's about music. It's all subjective. Just like a writer doesn't have to write 'I Think' all the time. It's implied. Here you go - Voice: The sound produced in a person's larynx and uttered through the mouth, as speech or song.

    • 2da9thpwr

      Well Im sorry but your diatribe sounds dodgy. If you are going to make a statement, base it on your opinion, his voice sounds trippy to you asshole, its not an objective fact. I don't appreciate you saying that my favorite emcee should drop the mic and get behind the boards (Im referring to your first grammatically f*cked up sentence). Hence that's why I offered you a key reason that why Aes should never drop the mic you dolt.

    • Anonymous

      I didn't mention anything about lyrics or not understanding him moron. It's just his voice. Look it up in the dictionary. Voice.

    • 2da9thpwr

      Aes is lyrically greater than anyone on your top 5 rappers list. Just say trying to understand him hurts your head and you prefer violent Juggalo rappers with a very minimalistic command of the English language.

  • Anonymous

    DX YOU NEED TO REVIEW LIFE IS GOOD!! And i'm not a fan of it, i just wanna see if DX feels the same way.

  • Alfred

    5/5 amazing album, really the accumulation of all of his previous work!

  • Anonymous

    smfh i mean it couldn't at least get 4 stars YALL are lame and do not know music, whoever wrote this review should have their writing credentials taken away and burned.

  • Anonymous

    To be honest, I never even heard about this guy, but I just realised he's a Rhymesayers artist so his material probably worth checking. On the side-note, a full-lenght group album from them would be incredible dope. Thx for the review!

    • Anonymous

      @MEGASHAUN: Nah, just never focused on the underground enough to know him. On the other hand, I always listened a lot of artist who came from this scene, but had efforts on major labels. That's why I'm constantly looking after guys who are on collaborated with my favourites / being on the same label with them / etc. Thanks to this review, Aesop Rock is the newest one.

    • Que

      above me why the insult?

    • MEGASHAUN

      You must be 5 years old.

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  • bkstylz

    I guess I can't take any of these fucking reviewers on hhdx seriously. I am not a big fan of Aesop but this album is incredible. How anyone can objectionably listen to this album and not give it at least a 4/5 is really beyond me.

  • RDCJ

    Slava strikes again!!! Please get this guy out of this job because he's obviously not in touch with hip hop heads and he's damaging the credibility of this sites and is giving the impression that the site is heading towards a more "POP" friendley structure.

  • Azupp

    This is an outrage! I can't believe Hip-Hop DX only gave this album 3.5 stars! It deserves atleast 4 Stars! Aesop Rock is a genius and this album is amazing!

  • jordanldn

    real hip hop http://www.mixcloud.com/HIGHJAMHIPHOP/high-jam-hip-hop-sessions-the-classics-5712/

  • So Icy Boi!

    album of the year. swag

  • ps

    best AES album up to date 5/5

  • maxbaer

    i'll give it a try

  • Lisa50

    Pretty tight album..

  • youngvito79

    WHAT HAPPENED TO NAS'S NEW ALBUM LIFE IS GOOD REVIEW??? WTF?? EVERY ONE AND THEIR MOM HAD A REVIEW ON THAT ALBUN SINCE LAST WEEK!! WHERE IS YOUR HIPHOPDX?? UNREAL!!

  • Touchtone

    I think 3.5 is terribly low. This is a 4. Nothing more, nothing less... and you clowns gave De La Soul's First Serve and REKS latest poop-in-his-pants 4s. What more do you want?

  • 2da9thpwr

    I would of given it a 4 but Im an Aes fan so hey and it spoke to me a little more. Even playboy gave a better review than DX: http://www.playboy.com/playground/view/new-albums-reviewed-by-playboycom-aesop-rocks-skelethon

    • Anonymous

      Someone tell that Pitchfork writer that you can review an Aesop Rock album without trying to do an Aesop Rock impression with your prose

    • d

      Pitchfork are more well informed but they're horribly biased. I'd give the album a 4.5, good album but dispersed with a few tracks that aren't to my liking.

    • 2da9thpwr

      @Anon I hear what you are saying but its funny how Dx only mentions three of the tracks. Playboy's review may not be convincing. How about Pitchforke's http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/16814-skelethon/

    • Anonymous

      Well a hip-hop site like rapreviews. DX's reviews vary wildly in quality.

    • Anonymous

      If playboy gave a hiphop album a review and an actually hiphop site gave a review, id probably lean towards the hiphop site for more accurate info.