:: Aesop Rock :: Black Sheep :: October 17 :: Cervantes :: October 18 :: Fox Theatre :: October 19 :: Aggie Theatre :: October 20 ::
By Mike Scales
“It is far too easy to hate on something because pop culture has watered it down,” wrote Definitive Jux label rapper Aesop Rock in a recent URB magazine article. “To entirely dismiss hip-hop as being ‘dead’ is a little like saying elephants are dead because they are no longer armored and used in battles like they were in 16th Century India.” No truer words have been written in the defense of hip-hop culture and the underground innovators who constantly strive to explore the possibilities of this young genre.
Case in point: From the first few seconds of “None Shall Pass,” the title track from Aesop Rock’s new highly-anticipated LP, it’s clear that his vision of the art form is more vital and alive than that which was displayed in any of his previous output. The song’s subtle techno thump, spacey keys and guitar with shuffling hi-hats, sounds almost otherworldly, as does the rapper’s frenetic delivery. On the phone with The Marquee from his new San Francisco abode, Aesop discussed the direction of his new material, the upcoming None Shall Pass Tour and all the painstaking crap in between.
“Recording Bazooka Tooth in New York after 9/11, it was hard to avoid the political issues being talked about everywhere, all the time,” confessed the rapper of his 2003 Def Jux full-length. “That definitely had an effect on the vibe of that record.” Four years later, as war continues to rage in Iraq, Aesop felt that a musical change of pace was somewhat inevitable. “It’s funny, ’cause I’ve almost become numb to the war at this point and some of the political rap out there just sounds like rappers are preaching and talking at you. I’ve tried to steer clear of that this time around by making a record that’s more of an escape and telling stories you can get lost in. I just don’t want [politics]in my music at this point,” he said.
A perfect example of this new direction is the song “Fumes,” a track about a relationship plagued by drugs, that was over a year in the making. “All I had was this great bass line and one verse of lyrics,” said Aesop. “The beat was kind of repetitive, though, and I ended up dropping it until about a year-and-a-half later. At that point, [producer]Blockhead came through and we decided to finish the story and completely pick the beat apart and try to make something epic.”
With None Shall Pass in the bag and the subsequent tour pending, Aesop’s days are mostly filled with rehearsal and promotion, which basically means his schedule already has him crisscrossing the country. “We’ve been rehearsing for the tour in New York,” he said, “so I went from there to L.A., where we shot the [horror/zombie-themed] video for ‘Coffee,’ back to New York for rehearsal, came home again for the [NSP album artist] Jeremy Fish art opening, then back to New York again for more rehearsals.”
When it comes down to it, it seems that rehearsing with Blockhead and fellow Jukies Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz is the most important pre-tour aspect for this seasoned rapper. “The decision to have a live band or not, how to work in these visuals we have for each song in the set…just the live vibe in general is something we’ve really been focusing on,” said Aesop. “The idea is figuring out how to take this [live hip-hop]tradition and somehow make it my own. Everyone involved in Def Jux has been at it for so long now, we should know how to have fans feeling like they really saw a show, ya know?”
:: Aesop Rock ::
:: Black Sheep :: October 17 ::
:: Cervantes :: October 18 ::
:: Fox Theatre :: October 19 ::
:: Aggie Theatre :: October 20 ::
Spectate if you Gravitate:
• Sage Francis
• Brother Ali
• Talib Kweli