Record Review - 4 December 19 2001

New York's Aesop Rock isn't on any kind of mission. In fact, on "Save Yourself," he advises, "The next time you wanna be a hero/Try saving something other than hip-hop/And maybe hip-hop will save you from the pit stop."

It's practical advice from a practical MC — and the utilitarian feel doesn't stop there. Labor Days boasts production that, even at its most cleanly delineated, feels lo-fi, washed-out and gray. The sound keeps it real, and even better, it makes things intriguing. The stand-up bass, congas and post-Coltrane alto-sax loop of "Battery" feel jazzy without drifting into boho boredom, while the pizzicato strings on "Flashflood" and "No Regrets" feel simultaneously grimy and elegant without turning into a post-RZA cliche.

On Aesop's Float release from last year, the rhymes don't simply bob willfully along in the background. Dude's got a lot to say here, from "9-5ers Anthem" ("We may not hate our jobs/We hate jobs in general that don't have to do with fighting our own causes") to "Daylight's" declaration that "life is not a bitch/ Life is a beautiful woman/You just call her a bitch because she won't let you get that pussy."

On "Tugboat Complex Pt. 3," Rock laments, "You'll probably never hear this song/Much less sit still long enough to listen." But he's not complaining. He's challenging you to try. And he gives you plenty of reasons to bother.??