Aesop Rock

Labor Days (Def Jux Records)

Spitting polysyllabic Ginsberg-gushes with his substratum voice, Aesop Rock raps his visions with smart-bomb precision. On his fourth release, Labor Days, he's a frenetic storyteller, updating his namesake's plainspoken lessons with free-flowing emceeing bred in the underground of the claustrophobic Alphabet Avenues. The kids, dogs, horses, ants, and asses of the famous Greek fables are here yet rendered sans iconography. As he "twists characters like Twist characters" with some of the most imaginative and atmospheric arrangements around, Aesop Rock makes Labor Days a laudable jaunt into the post-modern hip-hop also inhabited by the likes of Deltron 3030 and Dr. Octagon.

Rather than imparting the genre's recycled soft-porn images of bespangled bodices, bewitching half-bare booties, blurred logos, and blaring b-boys, the funk of Labor Days comes from a deeper source. Early on, Aesop's significant skills and extroverted quest for understanding become evident. Tracks like "Flashflood," "Boombox," and "9-5ers Anthem" joust with the symptoms of a society trapped by boredom, empty promises, and unrealized dreams. In the standout "No Regrets," he tells the story of a neighborhood girl, Lucy, and turns it into a theme of hope: "You can dream a little dream, or you can live a little dream/ I'd rather live it 'cause dreamers always chase but never get it." Roaming the wilds of the English language, Aesop Rock meters his commentary and complaints into infectious invectives that overwhelm the listener with an education not to be ignored.

 
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