Labor days

Happy Labor day , yall! Take off those white jeans and tie up your sailboats!
I figure on a day like this ,that means absolutely nothing to a guy like me (IE: one who doesn’t have a normal job), it would be cool to reminisce about “Labor days”, the album. For those who don’t know, this was the first Aesop rock release on Definitive Jux records that I produced a large chunk of. Because it was so long ago, I honestly don’t have that many concise memories of that time but I figured it would interest some of you if I rattled off as many as I possibly could about that album/era. I’m totally winging this right now so let’s see what comes up…

1) Why there are not instrumentals for this album floating around

All the beats on “Labor days” were two tracked. Meaning, I sequenced/mixed them on my sampler and then we recorded the entire beat , as is , onto Aesop’s digital 8-track. If you ever wondered why that album (and “Float” before it) didn’t have the bangingest drums, that is why. All things considered , I think it came out pretty well , though I can’t sit through “Daylight” without wishing I had put better drums on it. Fuckin’ rimshot? Ughh…
Anyway, after it was on the 8-track, we got it all mixed down at Cryptic One’s house in long island. He pretty much mixed the prerecorded beats and vocals (that Aesop had already laid down). Basically, he polished what could have been a turd , into something that sounded legit.
Anyway, because no one realized this album was going to be the success it was, we only made instrumental versions for the songs that were going on the singles. This was: Daylight, Coma, Boom Box, Labor, and the B-sides Maintenance and Kill’em all (RJD2 remix).
Basically, any song on “Labor days” that wasn’t those songs does not have an existing instrumental. That is why you will never hear Aes perform certain songs from that album live. Cause the beats simply do not exist.

2)How “Daylight” happened

When I first made the beat for “Daylight” , I liked it but didn’t love it. Honestly, I thought it was kinda soft. I certainly didn’t think Aesop would like it.
Anyway, one day i had a bunch of people over. It was Aesop and a bunch of Atom’s family guys (I know Cryptic was there, maybe Vast, Maybe Hangar 18). I was just playing them all beats. The beat for “Daylight” came on and I distinctly remember Cryptic being the first to react. He loved it. This shocked me cause he typically was more of a dark and ominous type (music-wise). The more it went on , it seemed like everyone was into it. That must have lit the spark for Aes cause the next day he told me he had an idea for a song over that beat.
I’m not gonna lie, I was shocked he wanted it even then. Not cause it was wack but more cause it just didn’t seem like a beat he’d like. I think I learned then that Aesop’s taste in my beats was never obvious. With the exception of a few, he always surprised me…and that’s a good thing.
So, He wrote the song, told me the sequencing parameters and I sequenced it. I still hadn’t heard the verses until after he recorded it.
He laid them down and I remember listening to it for the first time like “Oh shit..this is something”. Once I heard the hook, I knew this was something that neither of us had really done before. It wasn’t a “pop” song, but it was the first song we’d done that I thought had legs beyond just underground rap heads. It seemed bigger.
After the vocals were done we needed to add something to take it over the top. That’s where the “yes yes yall! you don’t stop!Keep on, til the break of dawn!” came in. To be perfectly honest, we both were laughing at it at first. It was too much. Like hip hop overkill. Straight up, it was corny. We both thought so. But, i think we were in the mind set of “Fuck it. If there is ever a song to let the corny flag fly, it’s this one”. So we kept it in and the rest is history.

3)Bent Life was originally with SLug and Eyedea

There was a time between “Float” and “labor days” where Slug and Eyedea were visiting NYC. While they were there, we recorded a bunch of shit. Most of which, never came out. One of the songs we had done was a different version of “Bent Life” featuring Aes, Slug and Eyedea. I think what happened to it was it sat on the shelf so long that none of the artists were really happy with their verses after the lay off. Basically, it was too dated. So, it was scrapped in favor for the version with C-Rayz Walz. I’m fairly certain I’m the only person with the original version in my grasp but I also am pretty sure I lost it like 5 years ago. Sucks cause it would be crazy to hear that again. The only thing I remember about it is that eyedea’s verse was nuts and he basically kicked the whole thing in one long breath.

UPDATE: The  Original song has since been recovered and leaked to the world. It’s called Thorns

4)I had a rough time with the recording of “Bent Life”

Cause we scrapped the older version, we had to rerecord the new one with C-rayz. If I recall, this was the last song made for this album and we were under a pretty tight deadline. All I had to do was bring the floppy disks over to Aesop’s house. That’s all. Here’s the thing, we were recording it on new years day. I don’t remember why it had to be that day but it was crucial and a big deal at the time. This wouldn’t be a big deal to most professional people. But, like the asshole I was, I had gotten next level obliterated the night before. In fact, I can easily say it’s the drunkest and sickest I’ve ever been. I drank a bottle of Captain morgan’s and then smoked two blunts with hash at a party and I spent 4 hours of that night barfing in the kitchen sink of the apartment I was at. I was wrecked. I don’t even know how I got home. The next day I woke up feeling like warmed over AIDS and then I remembered I had to walk cross town to drop these disks off at Aes’s. The initial plan was for me to stick around for the recording and everything but after Aes heard what kinda shape I was in, I think he knew it would be better for me to not even be there. So, I trudged across town (Aes lived on 11th street and avenue A at the time and I was in the west village) and gave him the disks. I hope I apologized but, honestly, I don’t remember even being inside my body that day. I do remember going home and barfing more though.
Strangely enough, when I listen to “Labor Days” now, “Bent life” is one of my favorite songs. go figure.

5)The songs that didn’t make it.

There was a long break time between recording of “Float” and “Labor days”. Being the prolific guy he is, Aesop had recorded stuff the whole time in between. “Float” was a long album. I think we both agree it was made before either of us understood the concept of not putting every song you record on the album. Sometimes, you gotta trim the fat. So, when labor days came around, we were more conscious about it. This led to some tough choices though cause some of the songs that had been made were really good. Songs like “Water” got cut cause it just didn’t fit with the rest of the album and , personally, it was too similar to “Battery” (which I felt was one of he most powerful songs on the album). So it got shelved.

As did “Jinx planet” and a few others that no one has ever heard of. Looking back , we did the right thing. “Labor days” was much more concise at the length it was. 14 songs is enough. Ask LL. 14 shots the dome, bro.

6) No regrets

I don’t have much to say about this song except that when I initially heard what Aesop had done on it, I was floored. Not only cause he killed it, but cause it was the first time I had ever heard him rap in a simple manner. I was really excited about this song. not only cause it was just a dope song in general but cause it would be a great silencer of his critics who felt he didn’t flow right. That shit always infuriated me cause , as someone who had freestyled with him and just been around him, I knew he could rap any number of ways. This song was the proof. Not surprisingly, it was also most girls favorite song on the album not named “Daylight”.

7)Aesop played the bass on “Flashflood”

I had made this beat and knew it was a weird one. It really didn’t have a catchy riff to it. It just kinda changed a lot and had a super dark vibe to it. For some reason, I wanted Aes to rhyme on it though so I pushed for him to try it. The idea was to just rock one long verse over this constantly transforming beat. Problem was, He had done a similar song over a somewhat similar beat by Omega one. Once both songs were done, it was really a toss up as to which was better. My song was definitely missing something while Omega’s was perhaps too dark. That’s when Aes called me and asked me if it would be cool to add a bass line to “Flashflood”. I was like “Of course” and the next time I heard it that simple bass line had pretty much transformed that entire song into something else. The day was saved.

Well, shit…that’s all I remember for now. If you got more questions I could certainly try and answer them in the comments section. Sometimes memories have to be jostled loose.

84 thoughts on “Labor days

  1. yo your blog is great. i read this shit everyday.
    these behind the scenes album stories are SO INTERESTING. i would LOVE to see more one here.

  2. The Yes and the Y’all, do you remember anything about it? It’s my favorite off Labor Days but the one I can’t really get my head around. Do you have any stories/explanations about the beat, lyrics or the sample?

  3. Just wanted to say thanks for writing this. I’ve seen Aes live a couple times now (pretty much any time he makes it out to Ohio) and always ask that he preform Battery. I was always a little bumed out that he’d never play it. Now I know why.

  4. Nice write up man.. thanks for this. Float and Labor Days were 2 of my 1st albums that got me into hip-hop, and your Music by Cavelight got me more into instrumental type stuff. It’s cool to hear some stories and memories behind songs that created memories of my own when I was back in college.

    Good stuff man – you guys got a life long fan and I’ll always be game to check out anything either of you are involved in… keep on keepin’ on.

    Very much looking forward to the Houston stop on your upcoming tour in November.

  5. This was the coolest post I’ve read. Mainly because Labor Days was my entry into def jux which intro’d me to rhymesayers etc…I remember being at best buy and seeing it and remembering someone mention aesop rock before so I scooped it up for 13.99 and the rest as they musical salvation. Played the shit out of that cd in my beat honda civic. Somethin like 5 years later I finally got to see Aes (and blockhead and evidence) at the grog shop in Cleveland. Great shit.

  6. fucking great read….this album i picked up not having heard aes before and my buddy and i were in amoeba and he said just buy this album. Came home and threw it on the turntable and i started on battery….that song really is the best on the album imo……couldnt believe what i was hearing. Was there really a homeless man that would play his trumpet?? i feel that song is really a window into a NYers daily life….but wtf do i know

  7. Really interesting stuff about ” Labour Days ” cd . Strange how you weren’t that keen on ” Daylight ” seeing as it’s possible Aesop’s most liked songs by many fans ; i guess that’s the music industry !
    My personal favourite song he’s ever made is ” Battery ” , so pleased you had a liking for that song !

      • I can’t hear it being corny but it’s your beat so you can feel whichever way you like about it . It may also be the biggest song Aesop has had ( don’t know about sales ) .

        I saw Aesop , Rob Sonic & Wiz @ a free show in Nottingham , England on the None Shall Pass tour ; Aesop ripped the crowd with a double or even triple time rendition of ” No Regrets ” Caught it on video but the phone has long since died so that memory has to stay in my head !
        Great Blog by the way .

  8. What’s the story with that song with Omega One you mentioned? Was it Coma or did it not make the album? If not, what’s it called?

    • El didn’t have any input on the creative process for the album. He just oversaw it getting put out, helped chose what songs would be singles and stuff like that. . I suppose that would mean he was an “executive producer”.
      As for the Kibosh on Jux, not really sure how that plays into an album that was released in 2001. It’s over so everyone has moved on.

  9. one the track “one brick” i honestly had never heard anything like the meshing of Aesop’s and Illogic’s little choruses in the middle. They’re spitting different verses and Illogic’s verse starts off louder and slowly fades behind Aesop’s. Did you think that as innovative has i did at the time or did you get the idea for that mix from a different track?

  10. Good read block, yea its me, Cryp, yes im alive (i think)… and i remember that day at your crib (re: daylight)…funny i was about to blog about this the other day , but i didnt want it to sound like i was taking any credit for Daylight ending up on the album … plus my old man memory mighta twisted it and made it more about me than it was in reality ( i did blog about Water tho cuz it ended up on Euphony)

    vast and alaska were there (i remember u and them were playing some video games complete with the usual shit talk… probably NBA2k1?)… me and wind were talking when the Daylight beat came on and we both kind of stopped mid convo when the beat dropped, i remember us rewinding it a bunch of times… not sure if anyone else was there tho… was aesop even there?

    Pretty insane how huge that song has become… side note: i also had a beat made with the same sample, but it sucked and got trashed,im so glad i never let anyone hear it

    ps. hi despot

    pps. re:labor days instrumentals… looking back it was so stupid of me to not mix down instrumentals, acapellas, and radio edits during those sessions… never really thought things would get as huge as they did so it never crossed our minds til months and months later… and the hard drive had crashed over that time… i do still have the back ups SOMEWHERE on cdrs for the Roland 1680 tho.. hind sight like a muthafucka… sigh

    ppps: hook for One Brick.. aes originally planned on just panning illogic all the way left, and him all the way right… then i came up with the idea of having the pans start all the way left and right and then automating it so the hook gradually would go towards center and end up opposite where they started… we tried it and liked it and it stayed… looking back i think it still works in headphones or on good studio monitors… but in a normal stereo, or car, etc its a little to crazy/cluttered/weird…

    wtf… its really been over 10 years now? jesus

  11. I’ve always wondered, does the (what looks to be Cantonese/Mandarin/Other such eastern dialect) writing at the top say ‘Labor’?

  12. your production was the reason why even european kids listened to this album when i first heard labor days i didnt understand anything aes was rapping about (no regrets was of course an exception) but because of the beats i listened to this album for months

  13. Labor Days is an amazing record… The first one that really got me into Aesop Rock. (No real surprise there I’m sure) The beats you laid down on it were quality. Shame about the instrumentals not being available. So I assume he doesn’t really play “No Regrets” Live often?

    You name your first record “Music by Cavelight” playing on the whole “Music for Earthworms” tip? Or is it just coincidence that there is that kinda connection? That record’s heavy too…

    Great hearing about the creative process…


    • He does do “No regrets” live but it’s over different beats.

      as for “music by cavelight” , it had nothing to do with “music for earthworms”. Just a coincidence.

  14. Man, would have been dope to hear the original Bent Life – of course that’s an obvious statement. Jinx Planet and Water are two of my favorite Aes songs, it’s crazy how much amazing music never really surfaced between you two. You guys hiding anything else?

  15. This shit is dope man. Thanks for the read. Crazy ya’ll made this like 10 years ago.. I’d have to say that this album, daylight, and float got me back into hiphop.. i was bumping shitty g-unit and was like this shit sucks. then heard ace and was like whoa! between him and the deltron 3030 album.. also music by cavelight.. i picked that shit up at a library of all places! and burned it to my computer, and ipod.. was the first hiphop/instrumental album i heard and love that kinda music now. good work dude.

  16. Yo Block,
    Great read what up with a Leftover Labor Days album.
    Keep up the good work and looking forward to the new album.

  17. That’s dope. Recently listened to night light ep and thought that the drums were a Lil weak on day light. Think that now cause I try and make beats and pay more attention to shit like that now. Compared to when I first heard it way back when. Shit I was 14. But dope read. Heard aesop do no regrets at the first paid dues and I thought he did it over different beats to keep it fresh for him. Didn’t know it was of no instrumentals. Haha. Amateur mistake I suppose.

    To your knowledge. Were there any documentaries made of def jux round that time beyond the one that was on the revenge of the robots dvd? Cause it was ill watching my idols chill, play games and freeystyle and shit.

      • This very documentary the introduction of my 16-year-old ass into hiphop. VPRO is the shit. It’s on this def jux dvd in it’s entirety. It starts out with a clip from “comp”, which I only found out years later to be on Little Johnny from the Hospitul.

        Also, I wish there were still some of those ‘def jukie’ shirts around that El’s wearing in it.

  18. Damn. This is the type of stuff i would pay to read! And if you EVER come across that eyedea joint i would looooooove to hear it! Thanks

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  20. thats crazy that i just saw this post. i had no idea labor day was today (or yesterday?), idk why i didn’t know but i guess im fucking up, but today (the 6th) i listened to labor days start to finish and was thinking about how great an album it is. and then i checked my email and saw this post. awesome

    • Great name…

      As for “nightlight” , it was made way after daylight. Like 3 years. It was also after 9/11 and I think all of us had our heads in a different place at that point. Aes might have a different reason behind it but I always saw it as response to the overwhelming positivity of the song “daylight”. A more realistic look at things , considering the social climate at that time.

    • Whoooaaa memories… my friends and I used to get CRAZY over this exact video. Probably seen it dozens of times. Must have been like 8 or 9 years ago now, right before Bazooka Tooth came out.

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  22. So you didn’t hold on to the floppy disks you saved the ASR instruments and sequences to? I thought you worked in some non-single Labor Day instrumentals at one of your shows but i guess not.
    Anyways, really diggin the blog. thanks for the insight.

  23. So I just had a dope scratch session with a homie and I happen to have Labor Days in the car right now and on the way home I realized that I would really really love to have those instrumentals. Do I have to track down all those aforementioned singles on vinyl (which I will do if I must) or do you have them digitally somewhere? I tried looking online to no avail.

      • I remember the day my friend brian and I picked this cd up. It was cold and snowing and I had just got divorced and he got dumped and we put this in for like a year solid. We listened to it mostly in the dark and driving around at night.
        We put people onto hip hop that never listened to it before from this album

        We met new women listening to this album. We made the most depressing music we ever made with this album on deck

        But looking back we had a blast resetting our lives and this album was with us the whole time. We still talk about listening to that album and the people we met and the shows we did and the changes that came.

        And for that I thank you.
        Sorry for always being a weirdo on twitter haha

  24. Awesome read, I made everyone in the kitchen listen to that album at work today, I know they aren’t off the Labor Days, but do you have any stories regarding the makings of “No Splash” and “Mayor and the Crook”, the two of those are some of my all time favorite tracks, there’s something about the beats and the lyrics in those two that have always seemed to stand out to me.

    • Aes did mayor and the crook so no story there. “No splash” was simply just a song Aesop made for his girlfriend at the time. Honestly, Float was made so long ago I don’t really recall much about it. I’m an old man!

      • I hear you man, it feels like forever ago listening to that while riding the bus in Tuscon. Have you ever thought about doing one of these on the making of the P.F.A.C. Album, that shit was so fucking funny.

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