AESOP ROCK with CANNIBAL OX, MR. LIF and the RHYMESAYERS at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Tuesday (September 11). $20. 416-532-1598.
Strong Island microphone magician Aesop Rock is part of hiphop's adventurous new breed whose records typically get filed in the "other" section.
But what used to be the dumping zone for oddball Brit MCs shouting about truncheons and lorries over Hanged Man loops has become the catch-all for artists who want to avoid the booty 'n' bullets conventions of commercial rap. That now covers all those, from Anticon and Rubberoom to All Natural and J-Zone, who happen to be among the genre's most creative players.
So while Aesop Rock's relentlessly incisive Labor Days (Def Jux) will be in good company when store clerks drop it in the hiphop section's "other" bin, he's still baffled by the need for such distinctions.
"It's definitely weird when people tell me they found my record in the abstract hiphop section or whatever," says the bemused Aesop Rock. "All these little subdivisions that popped up in hiphop over the past year or two are kind of strange to me. As far as I'm concerned, I just make hiphop. Period.
"The songs on Labor Days are written from the perspective of someone in his mid-20s who lives in the projects, just trying to pay the bills with what little he makes at his crappy job. It's something I think a lot people can relate to hopefully. There's no shooting involved, because I never shot anyone."
The deftly constructed narratives of Labor Days make it a good fit with the equally ambitious Def Jux label releases by Mr. Lif and Cannibal Ox that have made the New York-based operation, run by Company Flow's El-P, an indie powerhouse.
"The label has a really strong family orientation -- we're all friends and we really love each other's music. When we're onstage together, I think people can sense the chemistry, because we'd probably be hanging with each other even if there wasn't a show.
"El-P has a vision of making Def Jux a trademark of quality, the kind of label where people could go into a store and buy a record on Def Jux -- without having heard the artist -- knowing that they'd get some interesting hiphop music."