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Tell Me a Fable

his is labor" are the first words out of Aesop Rock's mouth on his second full-length offering, Labor Days. Talk about putting in work: This guy doesn't even know what a day off is. For 70 solid minutes, he never lets up--not with the rhymes, not with the beats and not with the dazzlingly conceptual insights he drops like pennies. With last year's Float, this MC's MC hit the scene with a relentless intensity and utter brilliance that has elevated him to the top of more than a few short lists for world's greatest mic ripper. Many of you are probably asking yourselves: If this guy is such a dedicated bad ass, how come he hasn't made his way into any top-10 countdown I've heard?

Simple. Because even though he works like a dog, he won't let his efforts turn profits for evil. His first two EPs, Music for Earthworms and Appleseed, were self-stamped and distributed, while Float was released on the artistically-minded indie label MUSH. Even as he makes his big jump to underground goliath Def Jux, home to such heavy hitters as Company Flow and Cannibal Ox, Aesop Rock is still a long way from an AOL-Time-Warner-backed budget.

But what about the music? Two words: absolutely unbelievable. The second this album starts, your jaw will fall slack and hang wide open for a little over an hour. If you've never heard Aesop flow before, prepare yourself for a treat. If you have, you understand that jaw thing completely. He strings words together with such clarity and depth that the songs possess a near physical element. Just peep lines like this one from the wig-splitting cut "Daylight": "I did not invent the wheel, I was the crooked spoke adjacent/ while triple sixer's lassos keep angels roped in the basement/ I walk the block with a halo and a stick poking your patience."

And it don't stop, and it won't quit.

If there was any shortcoming to Float, it was the production, which though tight didn't always seem to stand up to Aesop's vocals. Consider it a one-time mistake. Mr. Rock himself handles the boards on four tracks, leaving the rest up to his trusted partners, Blockhead and Omega One, who keep heads noddin' like a once-a-week lecture.

The Asian-twinged "Flashflood" provides a strong beat that Aesop attacks with a cadence that is at once urgent yet slightly reserved--as if he has to hack his way through the forest of ignorance. Other stand-outs include "No Regrets," where he paints a painfully beautiful lesson we can all take to heart, and "9-5-er's Anthem," a theme that will resonate for anyone who has had to battle a morning commute to the office.

So skip class and go buy this album--you'll probably learn more. But be warned: Although Aesop Rock's goal is to take you to another level, his music isn't an elevator. It's a rope ladder, and you're going have to climb it yourself.

But then, isn't anything worth having worth working for anyway?


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