With a tour in support of his newest Def Jux release, Bazooka Tooth, New York City native Aesop Rock is a busy man. As the poet laureate of the underground, Aesop Rock is the best rap artist you’ve never heard of. As his tour bounces throughout the contiguous 48, he managed to stop and talk with The Michigan Daily before his show at the Magic Stick in Detroit last Tuesday.
Utilizing a complex, dense, thesis-per-minute style that draws on equal parts history, mythology, layered wordplay and astute observation to create densely constructed soundscapes, Aesop Rock’s dexterous flow demands repeated listens for full comprehension. Words such as accessible and simple would never be used to describe his music and apparently Aesop is not interested in changing. Although he has started the route to exposure with a video currently circulating on MTV 2, he said of the mainstream, “It’s not really my goal but if it happens I’ll do it. I do this shit to try to make myself happy and then make my friends happy … Major radio and music stations don’t want the risk because they have a formula that makes them money.” He noted, however, that “the tours increase the sales, which helps the label rep and then that raises the buzz, so that slowly the spotlight gets brightened and that I’m ready for the leg work.”
Separating from longtime producer Blockhead to do the majority of his beats on Bazooka Tooth, the album has a different sound for Aesop, and in turn the critical response has been different as well. While he values the critical reception to a degree and admits some of it does get under his skin, he says at the end of the day you can only trust your own opinion. It’s clear to see that getting his production style out there is important and that he wants people to get used to and feel his sound because producing for other artists is something he hopes to get into in a larger scale.
As for what’s next for Aesop, a joint project with El-P was talked about as well as possible concept albums with underground madman MF Doom. As Aesop said, “Concept albums can go too over the top, but I’m not sure when I will be ready to do the next Aesop Rock solo album,” so a side project seems likely.
Following two excessively long opening acts and the energetic Murs, Aesop finally took the stage with labelmate Mr. Lif and they proceeded to give a quality show, exhibiting true chemistry and synergy. Doing singles primarily from his three Def Jux releases, Aesop’s control and delivery was insane, although there is some difficulty in following such layered songs live. There was classic DJ interaction and even some humor was thrown into the performance, a welcome display of personality from someone so seemingly cerebral. The crowd of pseudo-Michigan hipsters, UM students and general underground supporters came out in droves on a Tuesday night to help feed an incredible show.