Rapper Aesop Rock has over the course of hi two decade plus career, become one of the biggest name in the rap and hip-hop community. That is because from one record to the next, he has consciously taken the road less traveled, giving audiences something new and unique in every release. His latest album Spirit World Field Guide is no exception to that rule. This 21-song (yes, 21 songs) album takes listeners on a musical and lyrical journey that few if any other rappers past and present can say they have featured. That is proven from beginning to end of the 63-minute presentation. The musical content featured in this record throughout the record’s body supports the noted statements in their own way. They will be discussed shortly. The lyrical content that accompanies the album’s unique is original in its own way, which again is nothing new for Aesop Rock. This will be addressed a little later. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements. It will also be discussed later. All three elements noted here are important in their own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make this record one more of the year’s best new rap and hip-hop albums.
Aesop Rock’s latest album Spirit World Field Guide is a presentation that will appeal to rap and hip-hop fans across the board. That is because it is another record that shows the rapper – Ian Matthias Bavitz – is not one to rest easy on his laurels. The record’s musical content is just one way in which the noted statements are supported. The arrangements are not the typical bass-heavy compositions that are so commonplace in so much mainstream rap and hip-hop. That is of course nothing new for Bavitz. Longtime fans will agree that he has always strived to push the envelope with his musical creations and keep things fresh. Case in point of that effort and its success is in the song ‘Sleeper Car.’ The song opens with a brief but ominous organ arrangement. That arrangement gives way quickly to an old-school hip-hop beat that is accompanied by a variety of electronics and keyboards that must be heard in order to be understood and appreciated. The sampling that couples with the other noted items makes for such an infectious groove that will leave listeners hugely impressed. ‘Pizza Alley’ is another unique musical addition to Spirit World Field Guide. The use of the tambourine and keyboards gives the song a sort of vintage rock feel. Its transition to the more modern hip-hop approach that makes up the second half of the song is so smooth and makes the song even more engaging and entertaining. The dichotomy of the electronics and bass in ‘Fixed and Dilated’ is another interesting musical composition featured in this record. The keyboards and electronics here are so ethereal and subtle. Set alongside the song’s bass line and its vintage hip-hop beat, the whole makes for such a unique work in its own right. When it is considered along with the rest of the record’s musical content, the picture painted by that whole is a rich, vivid landscape that once again proves Aesop Rock’s originally and creativity in his attention to musical detail. The appeal that the album’s musical content brings audiences is just one part of what makes the record so engaging and entertaining. Its lyrical content is just as original as its musical compositions.
The lyrical content that is featured in Aesop Rock’s latest album is unique in that it is completely unlike anything else that any rapper out there today has presented and is presenting. Case in point is one of the album’s late entries, ‘Fixed and Dilated.’ The song comes across like a re-telling of the classic book and movie, The Exorcist. That is evidenced as the song makes note of the “2 pupils/All he say is “Ian’s Not Here/Pitch it down a octave/I’ma take this opportunity piss and vomit lava/White the neck is lazy susan-ing.” The rest of the song lyrically stays in line with this, which in whole stays in line with the theme of the album’s title. It is obviously a rarely if ever traveled road for any of Aesop Rock’s contemporaries in the rap and hip-hop community. ‘Dog at the Door’ also follows the theme of the album’s title. It features someone in their house who hears a sound outside the house. The subject wonders if the sound came from a cat, or if “it’s probably a trap.” The subject even goes so far as to say, “I realize think that I am off the deep end/I’ll say that it’s a lovely night regardless of the BS.” The whole thing stands out with its wintertime ghost story. Again, this is something that Aesop Rock’s counterparts in the hip-hop and rap communities are rarely if ever touching in terms of lyrical content. In other words, it’s another way in which he is taking that road less traveled once more here. Aesop Rock goes in a completely different direction in ‘1 to 10.’ Apparently, if the lyrics are to be interpreted right, this song is just about someone dealing with back pains, of all things. It even opens with Aesop Rock rapping, “Bad back, bad back, bad back/One half zig/While the other half zag/Stand too long and the whole s*** hunch.” He even makes mention of going to see a doctor at one point in the song, with the doctor asking about how the intensity of the pain. It is just a random lyrical topic, that if it is meant as a metaphor for something else, is still unique in its own right. Once more, here audiences have an example of just how original the lyrical content is from Aesop Rock on his latest album. When it is considered with the rest of the album’s lyrical content, the whole of that material makes for just as much engagement and entertainment as the album’s musical content. The two sides together make the album well worth hearing by themselves. Of course they are only a portion of what audiences will appreciate. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.
The sequencing of Aesop Rock’s new album is extremely important, considering that the record runs 21 songs deep and just over an hour in time. Considering that depth and length, a lot of attention had to be paid to the sequencing, so as to make sure the energy remained stable and that the songs’ lyrical content did not lose listeners. From one song to the next, the energy remains stable even as the stylistic approach changes. That change of styles in itself keeps things interesting for listeners. Even when the stylistic change brings about a slower song, the energy is still stable. Simply put, the album’s sequencing ensures in its own right. When it is considered along with the album’s overall content, the album in whole leaves no doubt as to its place in this year’s field of new rap and hip-hop albums.
Aesop Rock’s new album Spirit World Field Guide is yet another uniquely engaging and entertaining offering from the veteran artist. That is proven in part through its musical content, which takes listeners down a musical path that is unlike almost everything out there today. The record’s content is unique in its own right to say the very least. It is something that longtime audiences will appreciate just as much as those looking for an alternative to the run of the mill rap records’ content. The sequencing of that collective content puts the finishing touch to the album, ensuring even more, listeners’ engagement and entertainment. All things considered, Spirit World Field Guide proves itself to be among this year’s top new rap and hip-hop albums.
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