Aesop Rock | 09.23 | Cambridge

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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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