Aesop Rock is a lyrical artist of the sort we here at SongLyrics live for–the sort whose music is near impossible to explain in a mere 500 words. He goes beyond turning hip hop into poetry, crafting songs from dizzying bits of images hewn together over dense, layered beats (and pushing poetry to its limits at the same time). Disappointment was never an option with Skelethon, his latest album, but the incisive wordplay it contains still surpasses expectations.

The album finds Aesop reckoning with himself–with a contrary, rebellious, and pugnacious underground. Moving from personal ruminations on his past to critiques of modern culture, Skelethon dives head-first into what it is to be disenchanted without falling prey to any of the tropes that thrive there. On “ZZZ Top” he remembers the ineffectual insubordination of adolescence through Zeppelin school desk graffiti before coming to terms with what that childhood created during “Cycles to Gehenna“:

I crowbar into the pecking order
The dreck between the whores and Betty Ford-ers
Hug a double yellow spine
Knobby rubber like a rat on a rope
Those little fuckers run on passion alone
The product of a DIY inadequate home
Grabbing a cabin in the fuck-outta-dodge
Actin’ a savage in the shadows of Rome

The 36 year old rapper feels productively middle-aged here. His words of disappointment feel substantial, his insights powerfully detached from naive idealism. The result is a collection of songs where blind optimism feels out of place, an album that inevitably drifts toward the dark and the dead. But Aesop does it with objectivity and a note of resignation, setting him apart from the disaffected youth giving the Occupy movement a bad name. The effect is especially powerful when he turns to his own life, as on “Saturn Missiles“:

I’m a patchwork of 86’d springs and gears
Who been stung by an unlinked pinky swear
During his what-the-fuck-was-I-thinking years
Maybe an awkward phase
Like his acne and sophomore fade
Played, calling all out-of-work action figures
It was death by saturn missiles

Several points on the record are startlingly genius–the tale of a dinner-table standoff in “Grace” that equals the brilliant scene from The Corrections that turned the literary world on its head; the last verse of “1,000 O’Clock” where Aesop sums up the vacuous nature of the commons with a story of sea lions; and the closing verse of the album on “Gopher Guts” where he offers a confession of remarkable psychological complexity:

I have been my own worst enemy since the very genesis of rebels
Today I pulled three ghost crabs out of the rock and sand, where the low tide showcased a promised land
I told ’em “you will grow to be something dynamic and impressive
you are patient, you are gallant, you are festive”
Then I let them go

Aesop has always maintained an cutting lyrical edge that shines through the music accompanying it. Skelethon feels like the MC has dulled in his anger but is still refusing to give up the fight. The outcome is an album that shows how to protest with the lessons of age in a way few of us ever learn. It is an album that deserves to be experienced, to be listened to as it speaks to the process of growing old missing the easier days of youth.