Release Date: Apr 29, 2016
Record label: Rhymesayers
Aesop Rock :: The Impossible KidRhymesayers EntertainmentAuthor: Sy ShacklefordComplex, bizarre, and disjointed are words often associated with Aesop Rock. His lyrics and wordplay have been difficult to decipher, but meaning can still be derived from them. His 2001 track "Labor" became a rallying motivation when dealing with idiots and opposition in the workplace.
Rakim once famously said he thinks of 16-bar verses as a grid and measures out exactly how many syllables can fit neatly within it. If this is true, then Aesop Rock’s grid must look like the cascading sea of glyphs from The Matrix. He has a wickedly extensive vocabulary, once deemed by a study to be the largest in rap, and he uses it to warp time and disrupt balance with phonetic pairings that sprout out unpredictably, an idea best articulated on the Busdriver collaboration "Ego Death": "I am ivy up the goddamn lattice/March to the math rock." On "Rings," the single from his latest album The Impossible Kid and his second on indie rap mainstay Rhymesayers Entertainment, he eulogizes the visual art career he abandoned.
It had been four years since Aesop Rock's 2012 album Skelethon, but if this 2016 LP sounds quite different, it's not just because of the time passed. All of the left-field rapper and producer's gear was stolen back in 2013, and even if these new tones and textures were previewed on the EP with Homeboy Sandman from 2015, LICE, this is the album where all that delicious "new new" comes on strong. The extremely esoteric and elaborate lyricist also tones it down just a bit in a winning effort to make this an autobiographical effort, with the nerdy "Dorks" being one of his most connectable cuts to date.
Late in Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic, Miles Ahead, Davis (played by Cheadle) responds to an interviewer’s question with a single note from his trumpet. When asked to put that note into words, Davis shrugs and says, essentially, “you just did”. Davis, in life and in his autobiography, was thorny and evasive, preferring to build mythology rather than to let people know him.
Madness and genius may not only be related, but also one in the same. Or at least, that's the conclusion listeners will be left with after listening to Aesop Rock's latest LP. The veteran left-of-centre rapper has titled that album The Impossible Kid, a fitting moniker that evokes a petulant genius that steadfastly defies the odds by jamming innumerable syllables into single couplets.
Aesop Rock was the jewel in the Definitive Jux beanie. His clutch of noughties records for the label saw him and long-time producer Blockhead craft brass knuckles rap that sounded like analogue machinery grinding below New York’s pavement. In the cockpit was Aes, who blasted tongue-twisting rhymes from skewered vocal cords. His vernacular was like a weird kind of subterranean dialect, the abstract lyricism of another planet.
Aesop Rock’s artistic expression is patently trademark. His extensive vocabulary is well-documented, but seven studio LPs have allowed him to extrapolate creatively. A serious foray into producing began on Bazooka Tooth (2003), and he later provided all the beats for Murs & Slug’s Felt 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez (2009), and Skelethon (2012), his most recent studio LP.
Former Myspace nerds like myself first heard Aesop Rock because of tracks like 2005’s “Facemelter,” a zany, lyrically dense song just like all of his output would turn out to be. I didn’t quite understand him back in high school but savored these bars, holding every five-dollar word in my mouth like gumballs. But it’s never really been about understanding Aesop Rock’s lyrics, which are practically nuclear codes.
In 2014, Matt Daniels compiled a data analysis for Polygraph that ranks several rappers according to their vocabularies. Aesop Rock proved to be number one, easily. Each of his albums are unique planets of language and instrumentation, and The Impossible Kid is a fitting addition to the MC’s linguistic galaxy. Whereas Rock’s last solo album, Skelethon, showcases his unparalleled knack for abstract imagery and reflection, The Impossible Kid combines hallucinatory wordplay with disarmingly forthright autobiography—a combination that enhances the impact of each mode.