Aesop Rock's best album, Labor Days, is a proletarian masterpiece that expresses the plight of those forced to work jobs they don't really want in order to scrape by. It offers an odd sense of zen, however, conveying the message that people with terrible jobs could still find a sense of peace. The rapper -- who spent his early career in New York City -- created music that spoke to the struggle of the young person in the city, specifically New York City.
What made the music so quintessentially New York was the cacophony of words Rock brought to the material, mimicking the madness one finds standing on Canal Street during rush hour, or trying to squeeze into a busy subway car. The beats -- provided by producers Blockhead, Omega One as well as Rock himself -- were largely sedate, providing a counterpoint to the chaos of Rock's lyrics. His label, the now-defunct Def Jux, was the sound of underground hip-hop in New York in the 2000's.
However, people grow up, and Rock ended up moving to California. His music took a turn -- not a necessarily bad one, but it didn't scream New York any more. Instead, it began to seem more in line with the Midwestern Rhymesayers label, with whom Rock released this year's excellent Skelethon album. "Cycles to Gehenna," his newest single, features a rock-leaning, Rhymesayers-esque beat, with a video featuring motorcycles, a heavily bearded Aesop rapping against a completely black backdrop, and ballerinas dancing ominously.
It's still the same word-drunk Rock, but a more mature one. He's morphed from a New York everyman to a pan-regional sage. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just evolution.
The video is safe for work, but the language isn't. Check it out at YouTube.