After creating a healthy buzz with a couple do-it-yourself CDs,
Aesop Rock positioned himself to be one of independent Hip Hop's
poster boys with 2000's Float. It was Labor Days released on
then-upstart Definitive Jux the following year that made an
indy superstar. Over the next LP and two EPs, the Long Island native has
changed his sound constantly - often with his own dense production - and
evolved his equally obtuse and obscure rhyme style. So it is with little
surprise that None Shall Pass is a completely different animal than
any of his other releases.
To the delight of many fans, this change in sound this time around is
largely due to a larger contribution from longtime producer Blockhead.
Aes Rock's wordy style has always sounded better over
Block's melodic beats rather than his own cluttered, Bomb
Squad-inspired backdrops. The duo pairs up for the lead single and
perhaps Aes Rizzle's most daring
song to date. The title track takes the BPMs up a notch and damn near sounds
like a dance song. Thankfully, it doesn't sound forced at all and is
undoubtedly one of the album's finest moments. Don't take this as a trend from Blockhead
and Aes as the rest of their work together is pretty much
business as usual. Standout tracks such as "Fumes" and "No City" are the usual
multi-layered, down tempo masterpieces. His other contributions, the funky "The Harbor Is Yours"
and the appropriately spaced-out "Bring Back Pluto" are certainly no
slouches either. Title track aside, the albums most distinctive song (and once
again Blockhead-produced), is the LP closer, "Coffee" - Most
notable for both Aesop's Jigga-esque bounce
and the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle's stellar guest spot.
Aes still put in his work behind the boards, fairing very
well when its all said and done. "Keep Off The Lawn" and "39 Thieves"
featuring El-Producto aren't his best work, but he more than
makes up for it with the likes of "Citronella" (truly made by
incredible use of a classic KRS vocal), "Five Fingers"
Kids." The latter is my personal favorite on the LP; the beat is
pure heat rocks and Aes Rock is at
his best addressing the state of today's youth in the way that only he can; "garbage
pail kids unite at the mall food court/chasing cheese fries with banaca/they
had shut the school down early there were bombs inside the lockers/no concept
of the problem, they responded like a snow day."
El-P stops by again to rap and produce "Gun For The Whole Family,"
which is nothing special, unfortunately. The same can be said for the Rob
Sonic-featured "Dark Heart News," which sounds like it would fit much
better on a Rob Sonic album. No
disappointments abound when Breezly Brewin and Cage
come by though as "Getaway
Car" is quite the posse cut. Despite a few potholes, this may
actually be Aes Rock's best LP to date. Labor Days is
easily the crowd favorite and there is nothing here that can touch Daylight
or No Regrets, but there are also isn't three snoozers here anchoring
down the last half of the album. Time will tell which body of work is better;
for now, just enjoy one of 2007's dopest albums.