After Camu Tao died of lung cancer in 2008, the Def Jukies began going into hiding. Mr. Lif left Definitive Jux and released one middling album before going silent. Cage and Murs followed Lif, and the label crumbled, releasing only one more album (by Danny!) before folding. Label head El-P holed up in the studio working on a solo album and collaborative project with Killer Mike, emerging occasionally to do guest verses for members of the new NY underground. Of all of the Def Jukies who were part of the label's initial wave of classic albums, Aesop Rock was the least visible. Between 2008 and 2011, he released almost no music. His self-imposed exile ended with the disappointing Are You Gonna Eat That?, a collaborative album with fellow Def Jukie Rob Sonic as the group Hail Mary Mallon. This project, as well as his work with Kimya Dawson (an album with Dawson is slated for 2013), seems to have reinvigorated him, and Skelethon is a brilliant return to form. Unlike all of his records dating back to 1999’s Appleseed EP, Blockhead doesn’t produce any of the songs on Skelethon. Instead, Aesop Rock handles all production duties himself, and the result is dizzying. Rock has matured substantially as a producer. “Homemade Mummy” is all drunken bass and busy drums, with occasional punctuation from a metronomic guitar. “Grace” is constructed mostly out of a guitar riff scratched into unrecognizable shapes and bits of bass and prog-rock keys. His drum programming is odd throughout, with busier drum patterns than most producers would work with serving as the main sonic trademark. On the lyrical side of things, Rock’s subject matter hasn’t gotten any less weird and impenetrable, rapping about haircuts, providing how-to instructions for making mummies, and turning a song that begins like a standard rapper boast into a confusing mix of crows and vampires (“Crows 2”). The kids on Rapgenius will have their work cut out for them deciphering this record.
Aesop Rock - "Zero Dark Thirty"
Aesop Rock - "ZZZ Top"