Running is a lot like sex: boring, painful, and if you do it long enough you’ll probably tweak a muscle somewhere. And, like running, sex is always better with music. When I’m making love to my special lady, I usually pop in an all-Journey mixtape. The songs set the mood, and picturing Steve Perry during the act really helps me “delay the inevitable.” So to speak.
But running demands a different kind of musical accompaniment. Runners need music that will get their pulse pounding and keep them energized. And who better to supply such a soundtrack than Nike, renowned crafters of running shoes, and Aesop Rock, acclaimed producer of dense, abstract, menacing hip-hop.
Wait: Aesop Rock? Seriously? The first two installments of Nike’s Original Run series featured mixes by the Crystal Method and LCD Soundsystem, both of which generate the kind of pleasing electronic dance beats you’d expect fitness enthusiasts to appreciate. But I always figured that hip-hop and physical fitness go together about as well as jam bands and personal hygiene. “All Day,” Aesop’s contribution to the series, proves this is not (necessarily) the case.
Fans, be warned: “All Day” is not a standard rap mixtape. Though Aesop checks in on vocals occasionally, the majority of the forty-five-minute continuous mix is instrumental; he handles the production, DJ Big Wiz scratches, and Allyson Baker (formerly with Parchman Farm, currently Mrs. Aesop Rock) delivers some quality guitar work. Unlike most instrumental hip-hop mixes, “All Day” maintains a fairly consistent pace. The tempo hovers around 112 BPM, surging to 120 briefly toward the end. And there are measured shifts in musical intensity; you can sense that the mix was created with running in mind. It starts with a gentle warm-up section and gradually ramps up the energy, concluding in a relaxed cool-down mode.
Is this mix appropriate for serious runners who want to use music to set their pace? Beats me. I listened to it on my sofa while eating Doritos and drinking Heineken. But even then I was impressed by the variety and creativity Aesop brought to the mix. Unlike a lot of music within this genre, the music shifts and evolves, never resorting to lazy repetition. I doubt “All Day” can actually make exercise fun, but it can probably make it a little less excruciating. And that’s really all you can ask for.