Aesop Rock is the most prominent of mega-verbose thesaurus MCs, but the veteran rapper has something the others don't. Busdriver's pranks are more smugly satisfying, and the proggy kinetics of Themselves more technically impressive, but Aesop creates entire realms with his cascading rhyme schemes. His new album, Skelethon, brought to you by Minneapolis boom-bap enclave Rhymesayers Entertainment, shows an unwavering veteran sticking to his guns. "Crows 1" is a crooked, warbled anthem with strangled synths and kick-snare traps and Aesop warning the kids to get off his graveyard. "Proud chests puffed to the heavens holds nothing / If we're cutting past the muscle and the tendon," he gripes. Anti-folkie Kimya Dawson guests on the chorus, her gentle sing-songy voice unsettling as it paints ashes and caskets with black and blue finger paint. Skelethon is unsurprisingly dense with imagery, and though Aesop certainly can confound, his flows are not so impenetrable. When he chooses to veer into relatively straightforward storytelling, it still comes out in an impressive fashion: "Ruby '81" is a linear narrative — spun in one breathless verse — about an infant girl saved from drowning by a quick-acting dog. Aesop Rock might be stubbornly self-contained and never ever makes this shit look easy, but his vivid world of rhyme is transparent.
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