Responsible for all but revolutionizing the entire face of underground hip-hop in the early portion of this decade with a slew of potent and influential releases such as 2000’s Float LP and 2001’s monumental Labor Days LP to his most recent EP, 2004’s Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives, Aesop Rock (aka Ian Bavitz) has proven that resting on his past laurels is all but forbidden. Following his Fast Cars EP, Aesop defied convention and collaborated with visual artist Jeremy Fish on “The Next Best Thing”, a short story posing as children’s book documenting the cathartic process taken to overcome a creative block. He also scored original music for two short films, “Fishtales” directed by Jeremy Fish, and “Walleyball,” released by McSweeneys Wholphin series. Early 2007 saw the release of Aesop’s unique and invigorating “All Day”, a 45-minute continuous mix commissioned by Nike+ for their Original Run series created specifically to enhance a runner’s workout with varying changes in tempo and instrumentation. Constantly finding new ways of innovation goes hand in hand with the dense verbosity and ethereal stutter-funk that codifies Aesop Rock’s output, andNone Shall Pass is no exception.
Created over a 2 year period following his last release, None Shall Pass unravels retrospectively, documenting not only much personal change Aesop experienced over these years, but also scenes and stories indicative of all ages of life. This album touches on the experiences all humans encounter as they reach the age of adulthood: being judged independently, moving to a new place, the relationships that one builds with others no matter how big or small. Snapshots of life from all viewpoints are brought to the forefront here; “39 Thieves” tells the tale of high school mischief, “The Harbor is Yours” embodies the viewpoint of a children’s story, “Fumes” examines the ever too common story of relationships gone sour due to drug abuse. Forgoing the typical stance of braggadocio everpresent in underground and mainstream hip-hop alike, Aesop Rock investigates and examines himself and others on this album, likening the title phrase to the inevitable judgment that everyone must encounter by their peers based solely on their actions.
Production on None Shall Pass also is a vital strong point, with the majority of production duties handled by Aesop’s longtime partner Blockhead, labelmate and friend Rob Sonic and Aesop confidently producing a large portion of his own tracks, not including a trademark dystopian banger by Def Jux label-head El-P (“Gun For The Whole Family”) and features the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle on the album closer “Coffee”. DJ Big Wiz also has a large presence on the album, appearing on 13 out of 14 tracks and offering a devastating rebuttal to those that say the art of scratching is dead. The duality of Aesop’s hectic stream-of-thought coupled with the complex production on this album makes no exception to Aesop Rock’s consistent pedigree, blazing a trail far ahead of his peers with an album that will be followed for years to come.