Aesop Rock

While putting together his latest verbose yet exhilarating album, None Shall Pass, Aesop Rock moved from New York to San Francisco, got married, quit smoking, and turned 30. So, it's not surprising that the record shows changes in his style; rather than battle-rap-style posturing, it focuses on semiautobiographical stories from his childhood. Musically, it features more live instrumentation and turntablism than his previous efforts. Collaborators include longtime production wizard Blockhead (who, like Rock, remains at the height of his game), Definitive Jux head honcho El-P, Rock's wife, Alysson Baker, on guitar, and The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle singing on one track. To cries of protest by overly sensitive fans, Rock has inched slightly toward the mainstream in recent years. He conceived an instrumental track for the Nike + iPod running system, agreed to be MTV's artist of the week, and his albums are selling better than ever. But as long as his style continues to evolve, his indie cred will remain intact.


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