I think that the majority of Aesop fans got worried around the release of Bazooka Tooth that one of the best rappers in the underground scene was losing his touch. Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives did little to assuage that worry.
For me, at least, this latest album was going to be all or nothing. If it sucked, then it meant I would have to come to terms with the fact that there might not be another Labor Days, and that Aesop might have run out of ideas. If it was good, though, then his mediocre last two albums would be forgiven as nothing but a phase, a testing of a style that didn't necessarily work. Aesop would be back.
Fortunately, the latter was true. But don't take that to mean that this is another Labor Days or another Float. This album has a different sound, a different style, and a different direction than anything Aesop has done before. In my personal opinion, it doesn't quite reach the lyrical greatness of his pre-Bazooka work, but it succeeds where Bazooka Tooth failed in that it is actually fun to listen to. The production is absolutely stellar (with the exception of one sub-par track from Rob Sonic), with head-nodders and melodic masterpieces throughout. The guest spots are well-integrated, well-planned, and few enough to avoid the disjointed feel that plagues so many rap albums.
Aesop's lyrics are as cryptic as ever, a quality that has never really allowed him to be popular in the mainstream, but has made him an icon in the underground. His songs require patience and active decoding. Anyone familiar with Aesop's work knows that the true concepts and messages of his songs lie buried in a thick mesh of obscure cultural references, little-known slang, inside jokes, and complex metaphors. However, it has often been said that this is Aesop's most accessible work to date, a label that probably lies more in its production than its lyrical content.
Aesop has put together an album to be counted among the best hip-hop releases of the year, sure to please both longtime fans and newcomers alike. Welcome back, Aesop. We've missed you.