Aesop Rock

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Everything you need to know about Spirit World Field Guide–and where the head of one of underground hip-hop’s most enduring and illuminating talents is at, these days–is right there in the mix. The Spirit World Aesop’s talking about has a lot of similarities to our own, especially in its current state. It’s a map to an upside-down world drawn up by someone who realizes that it’s been upside down for so long that everyone else had just gotten used to it. The free-floating anxiety, the looming existential dread, the paranoia and suspicion that define our moment? That’s familiar turf for Aesop. He’s not just exploring new sounds, he’s also making more expressive music. The feeling of being a stranger in a strange land permeates the album down to its sonic foundation. The beats are aggressive but appropriately haunted, with a touch of the otherworldly like you’re suddenly able to tune into what they’re listening to on the other side. This is seance radio, doomsday funk, high-anxiety head-nod shit. This is a master craftsman hitting a wild new stride. What you do with everything that he’s putting down here is up to you. And that’s sort of the whole point. The path through the Spirit World is the path to freedom, and Aesop Rock will show you the way, but he won’t hold your hand. He can’t. We all have to take this journey ourselves. There aren’t any shortcuts, but if you keep your ears open you might find a way around the worst of it, and company who can make the trip less scary.

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