One of the many legendary artists that tow the line between mainstream and underground, Aesop Rock’s vernacular brought him lots of fans that have been around for as long as he has. Aesop has developed a lot as an artist, from improving his delivery to his increased quality in production, he’s one artist that will be remembered for a very long time. So cheers to his long legacy and review it, seeing what his magnum opus is, and what his weakest project is.
Note: Albums from The Uncluded and Hail Mary Mallon are not included, this is just Aesop’s solo discography plus Malibu Ken.
12. Music for Earthworms (1997)
A project that even Aesop doesn’t seem to enjoy anymore as it hasn’t reached streaming and seems that will stay its fate, Music for Earthworms is a bunch of solid lyrical showcases hidden behind lacking production that does a disservice to any great bars Aesop may have dropped. A disappointing mess that could have just been so much more.
Best tracks: “Coward of the Year”
11. Float (2000)
An unnecessarily long project that goes on for way too long with boring production to pair. This only tops Music For Earthworms due to better consistency and slightly better production but both are lacking in any charisma or interesting aspects to keep a listener entertained. A lacking project that would have been better with just something more in every aspect.
Best tracks: “Big Bang”
10. Appleseed (1999)
The precursor to Float shows that Aesop had solid production even before Labor Days, but seemed to only use it on this project. It’s a shame as this EP isn’t bad but mostly carried by the most entertaining and energetic song of the project, “1,000 Deaths”. Outside of this track, none of the other tracks truly get close except “Odessa”, but even still these two tracks can’t make up for a very raw project that wasn’t fully realized.
Best tracks: “1,000 Deaths”, “Odessa”
9. Bazooka Tooth (2003)
The worst of Aesop’s bigger name albums, the risk Aesop took didn’t fully work out for him on this project. The mixing on some songs are awful and takes away any entertainment, and the production is extremely overwhelming, even for Aesop standards. The only time the tracks work is when Aesop and the production mix together and that only happens twice on the whole album. The rest end up being half-baked ideas with poor delivery from Aesop, but the highlight tracks carry the project and keep it from being any lower.
Best tracks: “No Jumper Cables”, “Mars Attack”
8. Daylight (2002)
While the hit song and the remix “Night Light” are used as a crutch to seemingly sell extra songs, those songs hold their own for the most part and while they may just be simple Labor Days throwaways, they still do their job well enough to make for a decent listen. There just isn’t much to say about it all, it’s a basic compilation of Aesop songs and that’s it simply.
Best tracks: “Daylight”, “Night Light”, “Bracket Basher”
7. Malibu Ken (2019)
From here on out, the rest of these projects have limited to no flaws whatsoever. Malibu Ken starts out this next level of Aesop Rock projects being a bit too consistent for its own good. The production style of TOBACCO is much more spacey and electronic than what most Aesop fans would expect, and almost none of the tracks feel like they maxed out their potential. But even with that consistency that holds it back slightly from being any better, the consistency leads it to be constantly good to great songs thanks to Aesop’s engaging flow and delivery, and when TOBACCO’s production hits, it hits very hard.
Best tracks: “Corn Maze”, “Tuesday”, “Purple Moss”
6. Spirit World Field Guide (2020)
A similar deal to the upcoming fourth pick, being one of the best releases of the year and yet is only in the middle for Aesop’s discography is impressive. The main thing that holds this project back is the insanely high amount of tracks, including the 3 songs being less than 90 seconds long each. But even with the 21 tracks in total, the 1 hour and 3-minute length doesn’t translate to a listen that is long, it feels much shorter than that. The maturity in production from Aesop makes the atmosphere of everything go by fast in the best possible way. Debatably his best-produced album due to all the atmospheric elements added to it all that makes it feel like you’re in a whole new world, and that should be commemorated for years.
Best tracks: “Button Masher”, “Jumping Coffin”, “Holy Waterfall”
5. Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives (2005)
In the shortest explanation possible, this is Bazooka Tooth but better in every way. Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives takes the crazy Bazooka Tooth character and makes him more enjoyable to listen to. Issues with Bazooka Tooth are all fixed, especially the poor mixing and production value, which seems just fine now. This EP makes Bazooka Tooth useless, as this gives you an El-P and Camu Tao feature, and better production with more encapsulating performances from Aesop to make for a great EP and the highest energy Aesop ever is on a full project.
Best tracks: “Fast Cars”, “Number Nine”, “Rickety-Rackety”
4. None Shall Pass (2007)
Without a doubt, None Shall Pass moved Aesop to the big leagues of the underground rappers of the time, which had big albums released at the time including one of the highest regarded albums of all time in Below The Heavens by Blu and Exile. It’s a high honor for Aesop’s legacy that one of, if not the best album of 2007 is only #4 in his discography. None Shall Pass was able to mix the weirdness and uniqueness of Bazooka Tooth and Labor Days and take a new production style to it and make for a constantly engaging project with entertainment throughout.
Along with this all, this was his last album before he had no features on his main projects, not even the always present Rob Sonic and El-P, who show up once on their own tracks to add plenty of enthusiasm and uniqueness that was welcomed with open arms. “None Shall Pass” also helped Aes turn heads, being currently his highest-streamed song on Spotify, is one of his strongest songs that bring fans in constantly. An excellent album that is only usurped by even greater projects.
Best tracks: “None Shall Pass”, “Citronella”, “Gun for the Whole Family”
3. Skelethon (2012)
Aesop’s darkest album in content, Skelethon, also contains some of Aes’s best songs, which is helped due to the dark theme of the album, but what makes it so interesting, is the major rock influences heard throughout the project. Unlike The Impossible Kid, which was released 4 years later, and also has some rock influences heard in the production, Skelethon takes it to another level including the titles of some songs feeling straight out of a classic rock album. “Leisureforce”, “ZZZ Top”, and “Zero Dark Thirty” all use a loud production style, especially with the overabundance of drums heard that further the rock influences.
Along with the already amazing 15 songs included on the base album, there are two bonus tracks featuring Rob Sonic, which could have fit perfectly on a Hail Mary Mallon album. Overall, Skelethon gives Aes some of his strongest tracks over some of his most enjoyable and consistent production.
Best tracks: “Dokken Rules”, “Leisureforce”, “Ruby ‘81”
2. Labor Days (2001)
Widely considering his best album, lands at #2 on this list, Labor Days is Aesop’s best mix of his weird experimental style and his engaging production and delivery, where he has a lot of hunger to perform on all of the tracks. “Daylight” being the main hit song from this album, shows Aesop going over multiple topics that mostly stick to the core theme of the LP, which is criticizing the 9 to 5 capitalism scheme in America.
“No rEgrets” is also up there in being one of Aesop’s best storytelling songs, and while very simple and easy to understand, it’s incredibly effective and something not many rappers could do. This whole album is something no other rapper could make and shows the unique style of Aesop Rock.
Best tracks: “Daylight”, “Boombox Apocalypse”, “No rEgrets”
1. The Impossible Kid (2016)
Aesop’s most complete work and by far his best project, The Impossible Kid brings all of his strengths together, his best production, best lyricism, best delivery, and pronunciation, which adds up amazingly. While maybe being one of, if not his easiest album to understand song meanings, it works out with his superb ear for great experimental beats.
From “Rings” being one of his biggest hit songs that has one of his most powerful messages, to Blood Sandwich, debatably his best storytelling song, Aesop has something for everyone to enjoy. And it’d be criminal not to mention the song dedicated to his pet cat, “Kirby”. All of the songs are equally amazing and add up to be the magnum opus for Aesop.
Best tracks: “Blood Sandwich”, “Rings”, “TUFF”
Written by Joey Valcarcel