Aesop Rock | 09.23 | Cambridge

Words by: Andrew Bruss :: Images by: Scott Fleishman

Aesop Rock :: 09.23.07 :: Middle East Downstairs :: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Aesop Rock :: 09.23 :: Cambridge
Aesop Rock blew the roof off the Middle East Downstairs as he plowed his way through a set of spitfire rhymes that left everyone in attendance stunned. 2007 has been a pretty significant year for Aesop. The rapper, born Ian Matthias Bavitz, recently released None Shall Pass, a culturally cross-pollinating album of thick lyrics and masterfully produced beats. He's long been an East Coast rapper, having grown up on Long Island, New York and attended college at Boston University. But recently, he's transplanted himself from New York to San Francisco, a life change that seems to have altered his outlook, and in turn, his sound.

In all of the press accompanying None Shall Pass, Aesop articulates the move as having helped sober his worldview, which has induced a degree of personal calm he lacked. The newfound personal growth he prides himself on comes across in the matured sound of the new album. So, when Aesop came to Mass he hit the stage radiating the kind of self-confidence that makes all of the greats excel.

As Aesop kicked things off, his crowd bum-rushed the stage in an attempt to pack in as close to the rapper as possible. The set began with a handful of tunes like "Bring Back Pluto" and "Fast Cars" that gave the crowd something to sink their teeth into. MC Rob Sonic consistently hyped Aesop throughout the night, acting as the Flavor Flav to Aesop's Chuck D. DJ Big Wiz kept the beats flowing while, of course, Aesop wowed the crowd with his acrobatic lyrics that shot from his mouth like an automatic weapon.

Aesop Rock :: 09.23 :: Cambridge
As charismatic as his presence may have been, it's worth noting that his onstage persona embodied a rare degree of honesty that's usually missing from a performer of this ilk. All of the standard frontman tactics like repeating "I-can't-hear-you" were absent from his routine, and in their place was a transparent honesty that has long been embodied in his lyrics.

The highlight of the night was "Keep off the Lawn" followed by "None Shall Pass," the opening tracks off his new album. By playing the tunes back to back, it offered his audience a potent dose of his new material, a move that helped fans grasp the difference between the music of today's Aesop Rock and the Aesop Rock of the past.

As the set progressed, what truly stood out was the degree that the crowd's participation influenced the performers. Many artists who spend a lot of time on the road have a tendency to grow desensitized to their audience. With Aesop, the crowd he plays for has just as much influence on the performance as he does. During this set, fans consistently raised the energy as they cheered, sang along and engaged in call-and-response with Aesop, resulting in an atmosphere that made it more of an interactive musical experience than a straight performance.

Aesop Rock :: 09.23 :: Cambridge
The set formally closed with "Coffee," the closing track on None Shall Pass. This was followed by an encore of fan favorite "Daylight." Through and through, Aesop Rock's performance was something that gave most everyone in attendance something to brag about at class the next morning. More importantly, it stood as a living testament to the crossover appeal that may be Aesop Rock's greatest asset.

Even though it was a hip-hop show, the majority of the crowd looked more like readers of Pitchfork than The Source. Aesop Rock's top-speed rhymes, overlapping instrumentals and intricate beats appeal to hip-hoppers, scenesters, indie kids and everyone in between. Aesop wields the crossover appeal of such rap-rock/alternative acts as Rage Against The Machine, The Roots, Outkast and Gnarls Barkley. Aesop has yet to break into the status of any of these groups but with a powerful new album and a string of shows bound to win over skeptics, it's more than fair to say that he's an artist whose notoriety is speedily on the rise.

Aesop Rock tour dates available HERE.

Check out JamBase's feature on Aesop Rock HERE.

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cuttyfives Wed 10/3/2007 07:33PM
Show -4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
bigfro Thu 10/4/2007 03:27AM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstar Thu 10/4/2007 04:58AM
Show -4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
gmoo Thu 10/4/2007 12:16PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Nice review. No negativity necessary here. Cutty, maybe you should try chess sometime. It beats being a hater all the time.

cuttyfives Fri 10/5/2007 08:35AM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
21mmer Fri 10/5/2007 09:14AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


^^^^and clearly very modest about it as well

pornofunk starstarstar Sat 10/6/2007 10:32AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


*** yeah iv never listened to this guy much......but cutty you clearly are upset that people are trying to make music and do stuff w/ their life and you.......well just sit on jambase all day knocking artists...

spun'dun'git'r Sat 10/6/2007 11:49PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


cuttyfives=hiphop authority? like to hear your album bro

Innaheights starstarstarstar Sun 10/7/2007 04:54PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I'm a little late reading this review. I haven't seen aesop in the last couple of years. Cuttyfives... havn't you listened to enough hip-hop to know that being an authority online is for wack emcees anyway.

cuttyfives Mon 10/8/2007 01:56PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up! sir, are right. Point taken. But, I didn't bash or rip Aesop...on this review, I just stated i dont think he on the same level as Outkast or the Roots, no where near for that matter. It is just one mans opinion anyways.

HighDef starstarstarstar Wed 10/10/2007 09:45AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Great review, although I'm alittle disappointed there was no mention of the opening acts, which were both equally outstanding sets.

Blockhead (who produced most of the tracks on Labor Days and half the Daylight EP) started the night off right with solid set of instrumental beats from his solo work, including some material off his new album Uncle Tony's Coloring Book. With DJ Signify by his side providing the cuts during his set it became clear real quick why Aesop and has enlisted Blockhead's talent behind the boards on so many of his tracks.

Blockhead's beat extravaganza was followed by The Octopus Project, which in my opinion was the unexpected highlight of the night. I've never heard these guys before and I was a little surprised to see an experimental electronic band on an Aesop bill, but never the less - they came to play. Dressed to impress, they turned out an outstanding set of electronic noise-rock instrumentals that definitely got the crowd moving before Aesop. I definitely recommend checking these guys out if you get the chance - They'll be back in the Boston area on 10/20 @ Great Scott in Alston.

All in all - a great night of music!

berba1 Sun 3/30/2008 10:13PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

uhhh i dunno saw him in nashville kinda could nto here what he was saying ever black moth and blockhead rocked the house though.