Track by Track: Aesop Rock Breaks Down His Incredible Album 'Skelethon'

Track by Track: Aesop Rock Breaks Down His Incredible New Album ‘Skelethon’

Aesop Rock is known as a bit of a muddled poet. Decidedly encrypted is sort of his motif: A swirl of blazing and bewildered metaphors, similes, and allegory delivered at neck-snapping pace. Although he’s something of legend about the indie rap circuit, he hasn’t dropped an Aesop Rock album in half a decade. Which, in rap terms, pretty much makes you dead. But, perhaps that’s just because he was saving up his energy for something truly special. (After all, we did call Skelethon nearly perfect.)

This time around, releasing his first solo album on the Rhymesayers imprint (since El-P’s Def Jux was shuttered two years ago), he’s provided not only the main course, but also the platter, providing both beats and raps for each of Skelethon‘s 15 clanging, loud tracks. His beats — which we got a good feel for on Slug and MURS’ third Felt album in 2010 — add just another dimension to a style that’s most accurately described as “unique”, in a genre that’s defined by its general lack of uniqueness.

It all adds up to one of the year’s best efforts. But, with an extra layer of Aesop’s signature murkiness comes a level of increased perplexity for us layman listeners. We asked Aesop to give us a feel for each track — as a listening guide and a way to decode the often-confusing lyrics that he spews so eloquently. He obliged (thanks, Aesop), and provided us with a run down of the new album. Enjoy.

1. “Leisureforce”

This playfully glorifies a reclusive lifestyle.  It touches on the idea of socially recoiling, and the positives and negatives that come with that. Cabin fever vs. feeling safe, Feeling lonely vs. wanting to be alone, etc.


2. “ZZZ Top”

This highlights 3 stories, each of a youth scrawling a music-related “Z” word on a specific surface under a specific set of circumstances. One carves “Zoso” in a school desk, one writes “Zulu” in markers on his sneakers, and one writes “the Zeros” in a bathroom stall with lipstick.  It’s about those moments when you are so inspired/enraged you literally need to get a word out by any means necessary.



3. “Cycles to Gehenna”

This song is about how awesome it feels to ride a motorcycle at night in a city.  I tried to showcase how one’s imagination wanders, and things can feel like an interactive environment display more than an actual town with real tangibility and rules.  I also find that vehicles in general are great places to get a lot of thinking done.


4. “Zero Dark Thirty”

This is pretty much a temper tantrum.  It’s basically that moment of 0-60 in a blink.  The feeling of things falling apart at a faster rate than you can gather them.  I also wanted to touch on those moments when you realize you are more on your own than ever before.



5. “Fryerstarter”

This is about Bob’s Donuts, a donut shop in San Francisco.  It’s a favorite late-night eatery of mine which I chose to liken to a religious experience of sorts.  Leaving the house late, driving across town, warm donuts fresh out the fryer, hot coffee, strange people, Seinfeld reruns on the TV.  Amen.


6. “Ruby ’81″

This is a fictional story of a 2 year old girl at a 4th of July party who finds herself stumbling into the swimming pool when nobody is watching.  Spoilers: The dog saves her.  Good dog.


7. “Crows 1″

This is something I started after being invited to see a dead friend’s gravesite.  I wanted to write about cemeteries not as peaceful, final resting places, but as a sort of farm for rotting corpses that attract worms and other scavengers.  Playgrounds for the dead and undead. I wanted to focus on the more grotesque elements and how it feels “wrong” to have someone I know among these strange conditions.


8. “Crows 2″

This continues along the cemetery plot, further exploring the fear, exaggerations, and emotions that can be stirred in a haunting atmosphere.  Full moons, wicked architecture, crows sharing innards, undead buffet, ghosts, etc. concluding that all one can hope for is that their loved ones specifically taste worst to such scavengers, and will therefore be left alone.


9. “Racing Stripes”

This song is about the rush of getting a haircut.  It celebrates the fact that you can always start over, and encourages fucking up your head/hair occasionally to fit your mood.  The second half of the song touches on the practice of giving yourself a terrible haircut intentionally, with the promise to not fix it until you have completed a task that you had been putting off.  This is a patented Camu Tao technique which resulted in his sporting of the “George Jeff” on multiple occasions.


10. “1,000 O’Clock”

This is another temper tantrum.  It’s about suddenly realizing you are feeling uncomfortable in a situation you have otherwise associated with normalcy, and the anxiety that comes with any big life changes.  It also offers my unscientific opinion on the mysterious (if temporary) disappearance of all the sea lions from Fisherman’s Wharf in late ’09/’10.


11. “Homemade Mummy”

The first half of this is an instructional on mummifying your pet cat, (which I don’t recommend).  The focus is placed on the practice of leaving the heart in the body while removing the brain and all other organs.  In the second half of the song I try to apply a take-the-brain-out-leave-the-heart-in approach to other passions I have had throughout my life – art, music, skateboarding, etc.


12. “Grace”

This is a story about me vomiting a bunch of green beans as a kid.  I would refuse to eat my vegetables which often resulted in me sitting at the table long after the rest of the family had been excused.  This particular night my procrastinated, slow chew-and-swallow was met halfway with the the contents of my tummy.  In the end, nobody won.


13. “Saturn Missiles”

This is about unwinding through playing with fireworks, melting action figures, acting mildly reckless, etc.  It feels like a lot of the harmless mischief I enjoyed as a kid is still what offers the most fun for me as an adult.  I think certain acts just trigger a youthful carefreeness in me, and I gravitate towards those things when life seems hectic.


14. “Tetra”

This is me rapping.  Some humor, some playful braggadocio, some life talk, some fuck you, some fuck me, some chopping it up, etc.


15. “Gopher Guts”

This is about isolating, feeling disconnected, etc. I wanted to accent that while I enjoy a nice tantrum, I’m pretty much a piece of shit who brings the majority of the adversity in his life upon himself.



Aesop Rock’s new album, Skelethon, is out today (July 10) via Rhymesayers.

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