If it's New York that inspires Aesop Rock, then his hip-hop reflects the city. On Labor Days, the 25-year-old East Villager's new album, Rock's rhymes are as densely layered as rush hour on the A train. "People write most and best when they're mad about something," he says. "The thing that inspires me is the strangeness of the mourning rush - people pick up their ties and go to work and everyone goes home and kisses their wife and goes to sleep and that's your day. It's robotic. It kills your inspiration."

But Labor Days isn't a celebration of the working class or, like so much mainstream hip-hop, monomaniacal self-portraiture. His lyrics are cut-up slices of metaphor and imagery that obfuscate the real Aesop Rock. More James Joyce than Jay-Z, Rock declares he "didn't invent the wheel, I was the crooked spoke adjacent," on "Daylight," while on "Flashflood," a dirgey, sci-fi influenced track, he's "stubborn as 1,000 born-agains avoiding questions." His partner Blockhead's production is booty-shaking, but the lyrics are the real trip.

"I feel weird because I'm not as schooled as I should be," Rock admits. "It's kind of funny, because I went through a five-year period where I didn't read a book at all. Recently [Def Jux label head] El-P gave me a bunch of Philip K. Dick books. I'm addicted to them. I have a feeling that this whole sci-fi thing is the direction I'm going to go in, because I play a lot of video games and like sci-fi movies."

It's not all Zelda and Blade Runner for the art-school graduate, who's got his eye on some artistic respite. "El-P and I were talking about moving upstate and buying land on a lake, building all these log cabins with studios in them," Rock says. "We could fish by day and have crazy studio sessions and all our friends would live up there. It'd be like a commune. It's an idea that completely appeals to me - living in a cabin and making an album, just being a hermit for a year."


Mush Records