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Aesop Rock None Shall Pass

Def Jux's surreal street poet has gotten married and recorded a Swoosh-sponsored exercise soundtrack since his last full-length, so perhaps it's not surprising that None Shall Pass loosely focuses on maturity. Adulthood's arrival hasn't made Aesop Rock go soft, though Blockhead's production here is looser and more jazz-inflected. Instead Aesop comes nostalgic, with tales of bored youth, isolation, and drug-spoiled relationships. He still unwinds his knotty lyrics, slacking off paid-by-the-syllable wordplay for a more stretched-out delivery with more dramatic effect. He rarely sounds as hurried (and exciting) as he did on his magnum opus Labor Days, but he's closer than he has been in years.

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