AESOP ROCK: None Shall Pass: CD

Look, I totally understand that the current situation with people posting full albums for download on the internet is a problem, especially when said album hasn’t even been released yet. As a serious music fan, I totally agree it’s a fucked up situation, not only for the smaller indie labels but also for the artists creating the music in the first place (and for those who think that someone being paid for their work is somehow not “punk rock” or somehow synonymous with “selling out,” allow me to offer a sincere, heartfelt fuck you). Here’s the thing, however: when a label sends a copy of a release for review, the fuckin’ thing should at least be listenable. In this case, the copy of this disc that was sent carries with it a “conditions of use” sticker that says, “This promotional CD is unique and traceable. The copyright owner is able to monitor its use and identify the source of any unauthorized copies.” How, you ask, are they able to do this? Apparently by placing individualized spoken identifications (in the case of this copy “This disc belongs to Jimmy Alvarado”) through every track, sometimes smack-dab in the middle. While this may, indeed, deter the uploading assholes who score a copy from the label from posting the copies they receive, it also so distracting that it effectively renders the CD unlistenable for those who actually are trying to do a legitimate review and will ultimately not get played more than once. That said, anyone tuned into hip hop’s underground knows who Aesop Rock is, and this latest release stands toe-to-toe with the best of his preceding albums. He employs a rapid-fire vocal style to deliver dense rhymes sick with metaphors that appear wholly abstract until one digs a bit deeper. This is thinkin’ man’s hip hop, a continuation of a tradition of rap-as-art that is too often overshadowed by the mainstream’s insistence on throwing money at the bottom of the barrel. Aesop Rock deserves all the accolades he receives, and this album will easily secure a place within hip hop’s top five releases for the year, but this particular copy of the album is an embarrassment coming from a label with enough experience with the genre to know better. Ah, but then you all now know about the disc, the label has its review, and I’ve got a new beer coaster.

 –jimmy (Definitive Jux)