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Top 100 Albums of the Decade: #15 Aesop Rock - Labor Days

 

Top 100 Albums of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one album and continue every day until December 31st, when we will unveil our #1 album of the decade!

Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.

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#15 Aesop Rock - Labor Days

This is one of those cases where differing opinions are basically impossible to reconcile. Some want to see Aesop Rock go harder, weirder, more impressionistic, more aggressively surreal, to nurture the tongue-tied bombast that leaves listeners scratching their heads at the same time they nod them. For these folks, None Shall Pass is probably the mecca until Aesop decides to top himself with greater flashes of absurdity. The other sect of listeners hails the relative simplicity of his earlier releases, where beautifully twisted imagery refuses to mug as the centerpiece, instead merely acting as the bridge between bold, pointed declarations. Yep, when he sobers up, Aesop is really the most poignant spokesperson for the everyman: "We the American working population hate the fact that eight hours a day is wasted on chasing the dream of someone that isn't us. And we may not hate our jobs, but we hate jobs in general that don't have to do with fighting our own causes…" When you can latch on to an unmistakable theme, it really lends those one-off poeticisms an incredible amount of weight.

Which is why Labor Days – one of his earliest and least superficially ordained releases – lands on our list of Top 100 Albums of the Decade. Smooth, minimal production and more careful lyricism – the "less is more" approach – deliver graspable songs like "Daylight," "No Regrets" and "9-5ers Anthem." There isn't a single track I'm compelled to skip on Labor Days, mainly because the overarching motif – an homage to the preserved independence of the working class – complexifies and unfolds with every verse. Blockhead's beats are key here – if Timbaland is the poster boy producer for mainstream rap, Blockhead spearheads the movement toward underground exoticism, naturalizing the backdrop for Aesop's humble message. With lines from jazz and blues underpinning the beats, this is the rare introspective, soul-searching hip hop album. And like the best blues albums, this album captured the attention of the downtrodden and held it, making it one of the best hip hop albums in recent memory.

- Phillip Taylor-Parker

Check back tomorrow for the next album! To see the full list of the Top 100 Albums of the Decade, click here.

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