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“A triumphant return and the best hip-hop to come out this year”
On his sixth album, Ian Matthias Bavitz, better known as Aesop Rock, has finally returned from a self-imposed four-year hiatus. On Skelethon, Aesop Rock has come into his own as a producer, adding to his seemingly limitless talents.
In the last four years, Aesop has been through a lot: a death of a friend, the death of his marriage and the split with Def Jux, just to name a few things. For Aesop fans, there’s a lot here to take in and love. The eccentric, lyrically mystifying, weird, spacey-sound loving hip-hopper that you started to enjoy in the early 2000s is still here, brain intact and still sharp as a blade.
The beats are funky, dark and big, and at times grimy; it’s clear that Skelethon is meant to herald Aesop’s return to the scene, as demonstrated in the lead single “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Distorted drums, pinpricks of synthesizers and noirish sampling set a scene where “roving packs of elusive young” scrape out a meager, tech-haunted existence.
“Lanacane, band aids, mandrake root/Bindle on a broomstick, pancaked makeup and shoes,” he raps.
Skelethon is instantly catchy. Building with ambient synth hits, lead track “Leisureforce” offers a glimpse into what’s in store for the listener: adventurous, lyrically-laced, apocalyptic hip-hop. “ZZZ Top” is a weird slice of nostalgia that looks back at three ghost kid rebels who carved their respective “Z” antiheroes in a wood desk. It’s a funky banger that hooks immediately. After a short break (“Ruby ’81,” “Crows 1”), “Racing Stripes” provides a fun, bouncy, drum rolling beat for Aesop to rip on, talking for three-plus minutes about the dangers of a bad haircut.
The long and short is that Skelethon triples as a triumphant return for Aesop, a lament for the death of the underground hip-hop scene he once knew, and a diary about self-doubt and struggles the rapper has waded through in his absence. With Skelethon, Aesop Rock has produced some of the best hip-hop to come out this year; pick it up.
Mixed by Joey Rala at Vista Sulla Citta, Brooklyn
Mastered by John Greenham
Engineered by Michael Nazzario