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Aesop Rock None Shall Pass Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

Incoherent but gritty offering from the San Francisco rapper/producer.

Louis Pattison 2007

None Shall Pass finds Def Jux MC/producer Aesop Rock, relocated to San Francisco, celebrating the start of his third decade, but still rocking the sour-tongued delivery and social conscience that he’s been rocking since day one.

Aesop’s approach is one that riles some rap purists; his rhymes are often so detail-packed and wordy it’s hard to dig much sense from the verbal wreckage. For his fans, though, Aesop is one of the few MCs truly taking hip-hop to the next level, and the deciphering these dense tracts is a feat of concentration that’s satisfying like cracking The Bible Code.

"Keep Off The Lawn" drops you in at the deep end, funky, live-sounding percussion atop which Aesop drops paranormal rhymes with a sardonic sneer: 'Woke up on a ghost-farm, focused on his groceries / When they aren’t telling stories they are multiplying grossly on the lawn / Let ‘em loiter, never let ‘em spawn the apparitions have been drinking this water for too long / So when they gather by the birdbath in the morning he would tell ‘em / I mean no disrespect so you have all outstayed your welcome'. "Candy Shop", this ain’t.

But if it’s next to futile to try to find coherent narrative in Aesop’s rhymes, truthfully it’s little issue. Aesop’s voice moves in strange, hooky cadences, and it’s enough that the fragments of language that you can salvage are poetic, witty, and crammed with strange imagery and metaphors.

The title track is undoubtedly the easiest way in, a mist of emotive synthesiser, scratching, and ambient, oceanic guitar that sees Aesop threatening to 'break the walls of Jericho'. But more than any of his previous albums, None Shall Pass finds Aesop eager to branch out. Sure, there’s Def Jux labelmates Rob Sonic and EL-P, who rocks the faders on the slamming "Gun For The Whole Family". But there’s also "Coffee", featuring a vocal from John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, and "Pigs", a hidden track built from hand-claps and raw, bluesy guitar.

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