“Zero Dark Thirty”
Rap, understandably, always has placed an emphasis on lyrics, and rapper Aesop Rock is known for his motley blend of allusions, metaphors, and symbols. This is rap on hard mode, and it’s nearly unmatched.
But the five years since Aesop’s last solo record, None Shall Pass, have not been kind to him. His best friend, rapper Camu Tao, died of lung cancer in 2008, and his record label collapsed two years later. The result, Skelethon, is an album that merges the tragedy of Aesop’s misfortune with his dense delivery and sense of humor. Heavy lyrical themes of death, unhappiness, and isolation are delivered with infectious energy.
Even more notably, due to frequent collaborator Blockhead being across the country, Aesop handles all production duties and imbues the album with a rock slant, fusing his beats with a prickly urgency and throbbing grooves. The most prominent guest isn’t a hip-hop artist but anti-folk icon Kimya Dawson.
Overall, Skelethon is more than a memorable record, bursting with inventive wordplay and complex, earworm-infested beats. It’s unlike nearly anything else in rap, and listeners who are willing to put in the effort will find plenty to admire.