The alternative hip hop pioneer takes listeners on an eccentric and surreal tour of a new realm on his latest LP.
At this point in his career, Aesop Rock is in a league of his own. The verbose wordsmith’s catalogue is one of hip hop’s most consistent, and his vocabulary is quite literally the most expansive the genre has ever seen. On top of that, his abilities as a producer have improved with every release, resulting in him being absolutely brilliant behind the boards as well.
This is on full display on Spirit World Field Guide, as Aesop’s pen is as sharp as it’s ever been, and his production is even sharper. The instrumentals on this record are extremely layered and eclectic, oozing with a fanciful and futuristic personality that perfectly matches Aesop’s idiosyncratic cadence and flow. This is an impressive feat, especially considering that his work on both ends keep this project unwaveringly captivating through the entirety of its runtime, despite its length.
This is because, in handling all aspects of its creation, Aesop has done more than just make an album – he’s built a world akin to those found in sci-fi and fantasy novels. As a result, the LP plays like a neurotically narrated film with the eccentric and otherworldly production serving as its score.
From Spirit World Field Guide’s intro to its closing moments, Aesop takes on the role of tour guide, accompanying the listener and giving his own insights as they explore this new realm. While his stellar storytelling is delivered through a more outward and observational scope than usual, Aesop’s staple introspection, self-deprecation and anxiety-riddled lyrics are still here, as this is as much an internal journey as it is external.
Even when dissecting the world around him, Aesop sees a reflection of himself in the spirit world, and in inspecting it, he also places his own mortality under a microscope. He’s aging and feeling disconnected and he’s dealing with the pains that come along with it, though he never outright says it, as his musings are perfectly woven into the world and stories he’s crafted.
This is Spirit World Field Guide’s biggest strength. These recurring instances of emotion and introspection, hidden beneath layers of lyrical complexity, are what make the project as engrossing as it is. Yes, Aesop’s impeccable writing and fantastic production are the draw here, but it’s his very relatable reflections on the human condition, hidden within these elements, that make the album so resonant.
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