Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Aesop Rock

  • Labor Days [Def Jux, 2001] A-
  • Daylight EP [Def Jux EP, 2001] A-
  • Bazooka Tooth [Definitive Jux, 2003] *
  • Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives [Definitive Jux, 2005] Choice Cuts
  • None Shall Pass [Definitive Jux, 2007] Dud
  • The Impossible Kid [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2016] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Labor Days [Def Jux, 2001]
Like most alt-rappers, he's got the logorrhea bad, and although he's figured out a lot for a 25-year-old, only a 21-year-old is gonna get that much smarter parsing every last detail of whatever the fuck he's talking about. But sometimes his meanings are there for the taking, as on the thematic "9-5ers Anthem," and the self-fulfilling "No Regrets," about an 87-year-old outsider artist on her obscure and happy deathbed. The beats have a subtle logic of their own, like the medina saxophone on one cut that sets up the heavenly houris on the next. And anybody (well, this being alt-rap, any heterosexual male) can use this Inspirational Verse: "Life's not a bitch/Life is a beautiful woman/You only call her a bitch because she won't let you get that pussy." A-

Daylight EP [Def Jux EP, 2001]
Less experimental beatwise than his boys, less literate bookwise than his rep, but, like his namesake, fabulously wise: "When I was 16 I was taping Bobbito and trying to find out who was newest and was trying to be the dopest, now I don't care if I'm the dopest." I don't know much about dope, I just know what I like: his beats, which average out to deep organ funk; his rhymes, which half-parse no matter how twisted; and his class consciousness--unlike "Bulletproof Wallets," his "Nickel Plated Pockets" are stuffed (they wish) with spare change. Title track gave us the great verse on Labor Days: "Life's not a bitch, life is a beautiful woman/You only call her a bitch because she won't let you get that pussy/Maybe she just didn't feel y'all shared similar interests/Maybe you're just an asshole who couldn't sweet-talk a princess." Second track makes her a biyutch and concludes: "Maybe you're just an asshole, and maybe I'm just an asshole." He isn't. He's dope. A-

Bazooka Tooth [Definitive Jux, 2003]
Fathomless beats an adventure, impenetrable lyrics a drag ("Babies With Guns," "Limelighters"). *

Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives [Definitive Jux, 2005]
"Holy Smoke" Choice Cuts

None Shall Pass [Definitive Jux, 2007] Dud

The Impossible Kid [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2016]
Indubitably brilliant, indubitably self-referential, Aes has exorcised his depressive demons with admirable tenacity since 2001. But for me the charm of his vast vocabulary, Google-ready references, and indecipherable significations wore off before he was 30, so it was mainly his ace collaborations with Kimya Dawson and Homeboy Sandman that inspired me to cue this up. Just two plays in I was loving a bunch of tracks: about his brothers, his shrink, his kitten, the passed-forward tattoos and dreadlocks of young servers at Baskin-Robbins and the local juice place, and his tour of duty with the neighborhood varmint patrol. Since all these songs were uncommonly literal for Aes, I wasn't surprised when the rest proved harder to parse. But this being an artist for whom catchy is about meanings rather than hooks, I was happy enough to try. A-

See Also