Words by: Greg Gargiulo | Images from myspace.com/aesoprockwins
Aesop Rock :: 08.17.08 :: McCarran Park Pool :: Brooklyn, NY
Summer Sundays are typically reserved for lazy relaxation and recuperation from damage done in the preceding nights, a final day to let loose and enjoy the last moments of sunlight and free time before the mad rush of the impending work week arrives. Though a tad more energetic than some may tend to normally spend their Sundays, there are few better ways to soak up the last taste of freedom than with the iconic embodiment of the anti-establishment, Aesop Rock. Supported by the scratching skills of DJ Big Wiz and back-up vocals from Rob Sonic, Aesop and his seemingly infinite linguistic arsenal gave a few thousand sun-baking followers a proper ending to one week and inspiration to begin another on a good note.
"Y'all enjoying your Sunday afternoons?" Aesop inquired about midway through his 90-minute set. "Cuz I'm having the time of my life. Wouldn't rather be anywhere else. I used to dream of this shit when I was younger." And for a wordsmith whose lyrics can be frustrating, challenging and rewarding, all at the same time, his blunt expressions can resonate just as well. Pumping out the majority of his latest release, 2007's None Shall Pass, a healthy helping of prominent singles and a share of the stage for his associates, Aesop gave fans more return than the money they paid to enter the empty pool turned eccentric venue.
"Catacomb Kids," a new cut addressing the youth of today mixed with apparently personal anecdotal touches, rang with a popping old-school beat and one of the many attempts by attendees to sing-along. Given the über-complexity of Aesop's content and speed, matching his words verbatim is an impossible endeavor for lay people of the rap world, but that didn't stop the masses - including myself - from shouting out refrains and word clusters to the best of our abilities. "Coffee" was no exception, with its catchy denunciation of the clockwork caffeine fiend populace echoing off the walls, extended hands bouncing up and down all the while. Further playing on the theme of occupational hazards, "Labor," Aesop's mission statement and defining wordplay work, followed: "I work on what I love/ I work to service all my burdens/ and I'll work until this here little flat line closes the curtains."
"Labor" led to the throwback sensation of "Big Bang" off Aes' first official release with Mush Records, Float. The ultra-quick chorus of "Big Bang" approaches superhuman on the recording, and could likely lead to doubt that a human is able to actually rap at that speed in person. For those fortunate to see it live, it became clear through his dead-on accuracy that the only major auditory difference between hearing Aesop's lyrics from the stage and through headphones is the addition of his flesh and bones presence.
Moving about the stage in a fashion that resembled a combination of Gumby and Frankenstein, constantly bobbing his head and shoulders with his microphone angled skyward, you could tell Aesop was enthralled by being up there and didn't hold back one iota from actually putting on a show. Almost equally induced by their rhythm was his partner for the afternoon, Rob Sonic, who bounced around emphatically and provided clutch assistance to each offering.
|Aesop Rock by Jenny Applebaum|
Giving up a portion of the limelight to his peers, both Sonic and fellow Def Jux star El-P were able to lead the crowd through a taste of their own catalogues. Sonic took front and center for "Smoke If You Got 'Um," an aggressive, in your face track off his Sabotage Gigante release, while El-P power-surged his rough 'n' tumble "Run The Numbers," spurring a unified chant of "Find those detonators!" Even DJ Big Wiz had some stage time reserved solely for him, as both Aes and Sonic rested a few short minutes on a speaker, clapping and bumping while Wiz spoke fire through his turntables.
Swashbuckling sonata "The Harbor Is Yours" and "Citronella" were packed with enough words to make up a short story or novella, and the daunting "None Shall Pass" rounded out most of the notable features from the new album. A faster paced "No Regrets" - the lovable memoir of little Lucy and her dedicated, reclusive, pursuit of her dreams - had fans bopping wildly for the encore due to its popular status. But, the no-brainer that easily takes the cake when it comes to well-known Aesop songs was indubitably "Daylight." Though it would've been perfectly acceptable for him to withhold from playing the song entirely because of the reputation it has garnered, instead he paired the track with its ominous counterpart, "Night Light." After inconclusive results from attempts to get the crowd to vote on which they'd rather hear, he launched first into "Night Light," but with verses purposely jumbled between night and day. The same was done with "Daylight," causing a strange hybrid of the two antipodes that never landed on one side of the fence or the other, perhaps illuminating an existence in some middle ground, between or beyond the two.
Closing shop as the sun dipped further into the horizon, notifying the onset of the approaching night and subsequent cycle that anxiously waits to greet the workforce every Monday morning, participants of the afternoon's activities destined for next-day labor could reenter the madness with a tinge more optimism. Or hope. Or, possibly, dread. When it comes to dissecting the abstract verbiage of Aesop Rock, crystal clear answers never surface as effortlessly as sunrises. His lyrics can be consumed differently for each listener, but contain the insight of a philosopher, scholar and MC all rolled into one.
Check out JamBase's exclusive feature/interview with Aesop Rock here.
JamBase | New York
Go See Live Music!