None Shall Pass
After creating a healthy buzz with a couple do-it-yourself CDs, Aesop Rock positioned himself to be one of independent Hip Hop's poster boys with 2000's Float. It was Labor Days released on then-upstart Definitive Jux the following year that made an indy superstar. Over the next LP and two EPs, the Long Island native has changed his sound constantly - often with his own dense production - and evolved his equally obtuse and obscure rhyme style. So it is with little surprise that None Shall Pass is a completely different animal than any of his other releases.
To the delight of many fans, this change in sound this time around is largely due to a larger contribution from longtime producer Blockhead. Aes Rock's wordy style has always sounded better over Block's melodic beats rather than his own cluttered, Bomb Squad-inspired backdrops. The duo pairs up for the lead single and perhaps Aes Rizzle's most daring song to date. The title track takes the BPMs up a notch and damn near sounds like a dance song. Thankfully, it doesn't sound forced at all and is undoubtedly one of the album's finest moments. Don't take this as a trend from Blockhead and Aes as the rest of their work together is pretty much business as usual. Standout tracks such as "Fumes" and "No City" are the usual multi-layered, down tempo masterpieces. His other contributions, the funky "The Harbor Is Yours" and the appropriately spaced-out "Bring Back Pluto" are certainly no slouches either. Title track aside, the albums most distinctive song (and once again Blockhead-produced), is the LP closer, "Coffee" - Most notable for both Aesop's Jigga-esque bounce and the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle's stellar guest spot.
Aes still put in his work behind the boards, fairing very well when its all said and done. "Keep Off The Lawn" and "39 Thieves" featuring El-Producto aren't his best work, but he more than makes up for it with the likes of "Citronella" (truly made by incredible use of a classic KRS vocal), "Five Fingers" and "Catacomb Kids." The latter is my personal favorite on the LP; the beat is pure heat rocks and Aes Rock is at his best addressing the state of today's youth in the way that only he can; "garbage pail kids unite at the mall food court/chasing cheese fries with banaca/they had shut the school down early there were bombs inside the lockers/no concept of the problem, they responded like a snow day."
El-P stops by again to rap and produce "Gun For The Whole Family," which is nothing special, unfortunately. The same can be said for the Rob Sonic-featured "Dark Heart News," which sounds like it would fit much better on a Rob Sonic album. No disappointments abound when Breezly Brewin and Cage come by though as "Getaway Car" is quite the posse cut. Despite a few potholes, this may actually be Aes Rock's best LP to date. Labor Days is easily the crowd favorite and there is nothing here that can touch Daylight or No Regrets, but there are also isn't three snoozers here anchoring down the last half of the album. Time will tell which body of work is better; for now, just enjoy one of 2007's dopest albums.