AESOP ROCK - 'Skelethon' Rhymesayers - 2012

                                                             By BRONZE JOHNSON courtesy of OkayPlayer

Here were all these weekend mountaineers, solid nine-to-five types with a yen to cut loose, bugging off for distant campsites with cars full of hot dogs and charcoal and badminton rackets… and all of them wondering if they would get through the weekend without being traumatized or chain-whipped. -Hunter S. Thompson “Hell’s Angels”

The notion of an Aesop Rock “summer album” cracks me up. It’s like Clark Griswold setting out for Wally World and ending up at Camp Crystal Lake. That’s not to say that the man’s work rests solely on shock value – behind the Technicolor curtain of free-associative fabling and bust-your-shit production lie poetics enough to resurrect Sylvia Plath. Once, when asked about the production on the Beasties Boys’ second album, Eric B was quoted as saying he could have gotten 15 LPs off Paul’s Boutique – listening toSkelethon, it’s hard not to feel the same way about Aesop Rock’s writing. The last 60 seconds of “Cycles to Gehenna” make me want to kill myself and come back as a lady’s bike seat.

Speaking of resurrections, it’s been five years since None Shall Pass, during which (it should be fairly noted) the kid wasn’t just basking in the Bay Area breeze. Aes-Rock produced the entire third Felt record, dropped the Hail Mary Mallon LP with Rob Sonic, and joined forces with indie mainstay Rhymesayers. One must also acknowledge that the sheer density of Mr. Bavitz’ work doesn’t lend itself to quick manipulation; it’s a slow-cooked marinade and the result, in this case, is a fierce back-strap representative of a man who’s trudged through the muck (depression, self-loathing, the death of friend and co-conspirator Camu Tao) and come out the other side with kamikaze focus. Skelethon may be Aesop Rock’s most straight forward, honest record to date, and, in this regard, it may also be his best.

First single “Zero Dark Thirty” and lead track “Leisureforce” both build on the more sample-based production and linear flow showcased on the “None Shall Pass” single. Bass favorably anchors the album, but all totaled the beats are less cacophonic than the fabric of say Bazooka Tooth, and more conducive to concepts, even humor. “Fryerstarter,” a certified knocker, is ostensibly about doughnuts. “Grace” is based on Aesop’s hatred of green vegetables. “Racing Stripes” recounts self-imposed butt haircuts, and “Gopher Guts” is the all-out confessional of an egocentric ostrich finally grown up enough raise his own head. But it’s “Ruby ’81,” the beat-free tale of a beagle saving a two-year-old girl from drowning on the 4th of July, that brings goose bumps to the surface and solidifies the story-telling prowess Aesop hinted at on past jams like “No Regrets” and “11:35.”

Unlike most LPs, modern or otherwise, Skelethon isn’t front-loaded. You could argue it gets harder as it progresses, so let those little ADD punks swallow their compunction for an hour and digest what it means to be hip-hop. By the end of such a rich record, it’s hard not to feel happy for Aesop. He’s found ways to make complexity entertaining and to harness pain in the names of maturity and laughter. So get in line, smile, and be glad for your chain-whipping.

- Bronze Johnson (Jeff Artist) - courtesy of

Album Preview- Courtesy of Rhymesayers

KANYE WEST-  My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy


December 2010

Sometimes my students grade-grub like, “Mr. A, why can’t you hook me up with a 100?” The answer is equally based in belief and bullshit – I don’t think there is such a thing as artistic perfection because that implies there is a standard against which we measure creativity. That said, with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West transgresses paradigms and defies the limitations of genre, thusly granting himself the highest compliment payable to an artist. As if self-flattery were an issue here…

If cacophonic is the new symphonic than, like Radiohead’s Kid A or El-P’s I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, Yeezy’sFantasy is a musical milestone monumental for its refusal to trim back its noisy excesses. Even y’all vegetarians know that fat is where you find the flavor and, in this spirit, would-be two and a half minute neck snappers become epic spirituals exploring aural peaks and introverted valleys – peep the reeking-of-RZA “Dark Fantasy.” In turn, “Blame Game” should rightfully be three minutes shorter, but Chris Rock dropping science on Cirque du Soleil p#ssy over John Legend’s phantom piano in the wake of Ye’s vocally and emotionally effected tale of deception is just so damn off that it couldn’t be more hilariously on! And while the stunning “Runaway” (feat. Pusha T) could aptly end with the Halloween-type piano stabs it opens with, it extends and shifts past nine minutes, past reality, past what’s come to be expected, into some kind of dreamy confusion – so yeah Kanye, keep runnin’ baby, we’re all right behind you. 

Back when he first came onto the scene, one knock was that ‘Ye wasn’t nice on the mic like he was on the boards. And while this is still the case, to some degree (really, how could it not be?), the boy’s shown ample flex from one record to the next. Maturity evidenced in apologies to what’s her face and dick-riding HOV on “Big Brother” aside; this is about SPIT, people – the art of emceeing. Yeezy sets his bar high on track 1, getting all Wu with his slick tongue, but his vocals on “Monster” and “Gorgeous,” in particular, prove how far he’s come lyrically. On the later, he offers; “All of them fallin’ for the love of ballin’ / got caught with 30 rocks, the cop looked like Alec Baldwin / inter century anthems based off inner city tantrums based off the way we was branded / face it, Jerome get more time than Brandon and at the airport they check all through my bag and tell me that it’s random.” Yessur.

When verses by Jay-Z and Raekwon become, dare I say, afterthoughts, it’s plain as day that ‘Ye has arrived as a rapper. Best rapper alive? Possibly never, but one thing is for god damn sure – when the MPCs crash and the phoenix finally flames out, Kanye West will go down as one of the great MUSICIANS of our time. Now how many in your top five can claim that?

(courtesy of