In two weeks, we'll be inundated with 50 Cent mania. Sure, the guy's got a knack for infectious club anthems, but his sex metaphors (''Candy Shop,'' ''Magic Stick'') don't exactly strain the cerebrum. Why not, in the interim, enjoy some rap that demands and rewards serious contemplation, like None Shall Pass, the moody, eccentric brain-teasing set from indie giant Aesop Rock?
Spewing tongue twisters (''Notice how the phobias appropriately procreate''), Aesop could seem a mere syllable-cramming show-off. But after repeated listenings to the Long Island rapper's fifth disc, his dazzling verbal pointillism resolves into clever rants and full-blown stories such as ''Fumes'' and ''The Harbor Is Yours.'' The latter is either a parable about obsession or, in the tradition of Slick Rick's tall tales, just a whopper about a pirate who believes in mermaids. ''Yaar, heckled by the swabbies at the bar,'' Aesop rhymes. ''He'll be the laughingstock of the Barbary Coast war.''
It's heady but fun stuff, eased along by bluesy, turgid grooves from frequent collaborators Blockhead and El-P, as well as Aesop himself. And lest you think radio-friendly thugs have a monopoly on catchy choruses, check out the hook on ''Bring Back Pluto'': ''All I thought of was the cloven hooves and how they clip, clip, clop over the woven roofs.'' Okay, it ain't ''Go shawty, it's your birthday,'' but Aesop's wordplay will grow on you and maybe expand your vocabulary at the same time. A-
Download This Hear ''Citronella'' on Aesop Rock's MySpace