Aesop Rock

"Catacomb Kids"

As a writer, I naturally gravitate toward the wordier MCs (Juelz Santana, that leaves you out). But there's something to be said for giving one's verses some room to breathe, yeah? Aesop Rock and his equally creative Def Jux brethren might do well to ponder that; the label's sonic and verbal claustrophobia can get oppressive fast, as great throwaway quips like "Garbage Pail Kids unite at the mall food court" are doomed to remain lost in the weeds.

Bottomless Pit


The surviving members of Silkworm—drummer Michael Dahlquist was killed in a 2005 car accident—regrouped as Bottomless Pit for Hammer of the Gods, a requiem packed tight with tricky time signatures and death-obsessed pathos. "Dogtag" is the highlight: pipe-busting indie rock that ratchets angrily towards a climax, even as it edges closer to accepting the passing of a fallen brother-in-arms.

Ja Rule



Gravelly, thuggish growl, sonorous lady-of-R&B chirp, lather, rinse, repeat: That, in case you ever cared, is all Ja Rule represents to the average punter. No one misses this twerp when he isn't on the airwaves; his name never comes up in "best MCs of all-time" discussions; effing Master P warrants more of a footnote in hip hop's annals than Ja does. This "new" single, where The Inc's smirking imp duets with up 'n' coming nonentity Ashley Joi, actually makes me miss DMX's by-numbers, by-his-lonesome movie tie-in bangers.


"Sitar Ride"

Should I feel ashamed for sorta enjoying this incontinent remix king's willful (and sans credits) rape and pillage of Bollywood dialogue and soundtracks? I do! Beat Konducta Vol. 3-4 is full of pulsing tablas, kettle drums, and Indian exclamations in Hollywood cadences. It's all very transportive, but I can't quite shake the feeling that I'm helping this dude exploit people.

Holly Ramos

"Art Lover"

As if Ray Davies's original studio version of this tune wasn't emotionally conflicting enough—at first you're sure he's channeling a lurking pedophile, but this cover quickly ups the stakes by flipping the gender.


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