When the online metal community is asked what their favorite albums of the year are thus far, one wouldn’t expect a hip-hop album to pop up anywhere. I, however, boast a current list of favorites that includes hip-hop artist Aesop Rock‘s latest opus Skelethon in the top five. As strange as it is, Aesop Rock is quite an outlier in my music library; he’s the only rapper that I consider myself an avid fan of, having jumped on the bandwagon as soon as I heard his previous effort in 2007’s None Shall Pass, one of my favorite non-metal albums ever.

Skelethon seems to do the impossible and improves on an already excellent foundation. What makes Aesop Rock stand out from his peers is his excellent vocabulary and complicated flow and wordplay. I know a lot of people (metal fans especially, it seems) write off the entire genre as ignorant and boastful, but Aesop Rock isn’t one to write songs about “hoes and rims” or whatever one would stereotypically expect from a mainstream/modern hip-hop album. Here’s a breakdown of some of the subject matter one would experience when listening to Skelethon:

  • A humorous guide to mummifying your dead cat on ‘Homemade Mummy’
  • An ode to Aesop’s favorite donut shop on ‘Fryerstarter’
  • A poem about a dog saving a drowning infant on ‘Ruby ’81’
  • Getting an awesome haircut and a lesson in motivation in ‘Racing Stripes’
  • A clever telling of a child’s refusal to eat his vegetables on ‘Grace’

See, Skelethon finally reaches an apex in Aesop Rock’s writing ability. His out-there verbosity meets legitimate storytelling, possibly a direct response to the criticism Aesop received, being accused of stringing together serial non-sequiters. While he has always spoken out against these criticisms of his enigmatic lyrics, there’s no denying that Skelethon makes a larger effort to take a narrative approach.

Open minded metal fans may find something of interest in Skelethon. At the very least, you might end up with a newfound appreciation for the possibilities of a genre you may have wholly discarded long ago.

Aesop Rock’s Skelethon is available now on Rhymesayers/Fifth Element. Give it a shot!

– JR


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