Aesop Rock, born Ian Bavitz, has always been one of those cerebral rappers, reciting rhymes that are less like straightforward, reality-based autobiography and more like abstract poetic stanzas. But with Skelethon, his first solo album in five years, Bavitz turns the focus on himself, making this one of his most personal records to date.
Skelethon begins with “Leisureforce,” a song about living a reclusive lifestyle, something Bavitz is very accustomed to. The cleverly named “ZZZ Top” describes three young people, all defining themselves with words they carve into desks or shoes. Listening to the track, it is hard not to think that these stories are all parts of Bavitz’s past. In “Fryerstarter,” Bavitz manages to make a seriously captivating song all about his favorite doughnut shop, comparing a visit to a religious experience.
Since the Definitive Jux label is on hiatus, this is Bavitz first record on his friend Slug’s Rhymesayers. It’s also the first time that he produced one of his albums wholly himself, and Bavitz and his beats sound confident. He no longer seems like the new kid on the block having to prove himself (as he did in his 2000 LP, Float). Bavitz now takes on the role of a wise mentor, spitting his beliefs in rapid fire at listeners, not giving a crap if they can decode them. But this mentor has never been about staying within the lines. Bavitz’s style has always been unusual, or as he says, coming at an “angle perpendicular to everything.”
Bavitz has always been a bit of a recluse, preferring to spend the day with his cat (RIP) than with most people. He has always told an outsider’s story, one that many rappers would have far too large of an ego to tell. This album, which ties together stories from his youth and his current life, could very well be his manifesto. More than ever he seems to accept his differences and embrace them, making an album that is more a solid work of art than anything previous.