Aesop Rock: None Shall Pass

It’s been two years since Aesop Rock’s last release, the excellent but brief Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives EP and four since his last full length LP, Bazooka Tooth; but the wait was definitely worth while. As experimentation has increased over the last few years in underground Hip-Hop (most noted within the Def Jux camp itself, with head honcho El-P branching out and teaming up with everyone from Trent Reznor and Chan Marshall of Cat Power for his recent album I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead); it’s nice to hear that Aesop (né Ian Bavitz) has stuck with his proven formula of futuristic production and head-scratching rhymes on his latest opus None Shall Pass (Def Jux).The new album features strictly in-house production from Def Jux power players El-P and Rob Sonic as well as Aesop Rock himself on a few joints. The title track sounds like a mash up of a xylophone loop and a high-pitched soul sample ala Kanye West. While the strange beat lulls the listener into a repetitive head-bob, Aesop spits the chorus, “I will rejoice in your fall from grace/When I came to the sky like/None shall pass”. What exactly Aesop is referring to is anyone’s guess. The beauty in it is no one should really care, because it simply sounds great.“Getaway Car” is a track that brings to mind a Starsky and Hutch car chase scene through the streets of San Francisco in the 1970’s; however this car is driven by Aesop, Breeze Brewin and the very underrated Cage (semi-famous for being namedropped repeatedly and hated on by a certain “other” white rapper who turned out to be a bit of a big deal. Any guesses?) Breeze Brewin, Cage and Aesop each take turns spitting fire over the blaxploitation beat that sounds like an outtake from Fishscale and just begs for a Ghostface cameo.The album does have a bit of a dark and claustrophobic feel to it, just check “Gun For The Whole Family” featuring El-P for a perfect example, which sounds like a paranoid nightmare recorded on a DAT tape. El-P nods towards Trent on this industrial-tinged offering that has him and Aesop sounding tighter than ever together. Although he spends the majority of the album caught up in his own complex rhymes and double metaphors, it is refreshing to hear Aesop inject some shameless humour at the beginning of “The Harbour Is Yours” where you hear a “REMIX!” shout that would sound more at home on a DJ Clue Mixtape, followed by some sarcastic laughing.None Shall Pass proves to be yet another fine release from one of the hottest indie Hip-Hop labels around and Aesop’s latest effort follows in the hot footsteps of Cage’s Hell’s Winter and El-P’s I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. If None Shall Pass is any indication, we can all rest assured that the Def Jux label will keep pushing out fresh and forward thinking music that will carry listeners into the next decade of the new millennium and beyond.