ANOTHER FINE MESS
HIP-HOP LITERARY GENIUS?
R. KELLY AS THE ORKIN MAN?
AESOP ROCK IS AS JUMBLED AS HIS RHYMES
"Nurse, dry Swiffer," shouts El-P, CEO of independent-as-fuck hip-hop imprint Definitive Jux. Today, El and publicist Teal are diligently emptying ashtrays, straightening up sneakers and generally Swiffering the ash-, rubber-band and pocketfullanickels-ridden floor of Def Jux MVP Aesop Rock's Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn apartment against his will. "Quickly, woman!"
"Did I tell you I opened the toilet yesterday and there was a fucking water bug you know, those ones that only come out in the summertime, but like the biggest thing ever?" says the lanky Aesop, clad in an S.A. Smash tee and a 12-day-old beard. "He was in the toilet, but not in the water, like the part where the water doesn't hit. So picked up the [lid] and was like, 'Oh my god!' This motherfucker! I just started pissing on him and he just stars climbing through the piss. I flushed it mad quick 'cause he was seriously going to fight his way out of my urine and just like fly into my face."
The latest fable from Aesop's corduroy couch is told in the same highest velocity flow as the rhymes on his fifth record Bazooka Tooth: rhymes that have garnered idolization, and to his mind, derision and critical misinterpretation. Rhymes that are as gloriously cluttered as his apartment. Eyeing the errant flip-flop, empty water bottles, matchsticks, matchbooks and CD-Rs currently clusterfucking his crib, Aesop might as well be the urine-soaked arthropod: "Ahhhh, you can't piss on me!"
"People are waiting for me to do something they hate just so they can hate it. But I won't do that…I will continue making classics for the rest of my life," says Aesop, with ironic monotonic self-aggrandizement. For every new fan he gets, Aesop postulates, there are three people that make it their job to hate him hip-hop purists that see his bustling word-clouds and neo-literary metaphors as a bee in hip-hop's Kangol bonnet. "If you put a record out," he says, "you basically might as well just hang a little target around your neck." One of his apparent obsessions on Tooth is the vicious Venn diagram circular relation between him, his fans and the press, leading with the pithy statement, "Cameras or guns, one of y'all is gonna shoot me to death," on the Sniglets-referencing stutter-scuzz of "Easy."
"Even if the interview is good, even if everything goes fine, even if it's an okay article, it's always somehow a misrepresentation…It's what kids read and they think they know me after a one-page interview and 15 four-minute songs I made over the last couple years…I don't react well to the public eye. I'm not super-famous, but it's weird, my skin kind of curls when I see my picture in a magazine, says Aesop, later adding, "If it gets to the point where I can't go to the store and buy my own pack of cigarettes, then I'm gonna not do this anymore, ever."
Journalists in particular get under Aesop's Must-Not-Sleep-Must-Warn-Others-tattooed skin, with hyperbolic jabberwocky: "All these subgenres are things that didn't exist when I first started rapping," says Aesop. "Now it's like 'leader of the nation of avant-hop prog-rap' I don't even know what the fuck that means!" Suffix-mad scribes miss the point of a guy who grew up on rap, never wrote before rap, never wrote anything but rap and just doesn't want people describing what he does as "anything but making rap music."
"It's kind of funny that they make me out to be this 'ultimate wordsmith of lyrical…' all the 'genius' and all this shit. You know, look at my fucking crib. There's Pepto Bismol spilled on the freaking coffee table. They make it sound like I wake up in the morning and give some prophetic speech out my window to the townsfolk," says Aesop, pointing at the hollowed-out coffee "table" full of remotes, ashtrays and a toy scuba diver. "People portray me like that and then someone'll meet me and be like, 'I dunno, Aesop was weird and quiet.' Man, I never said I wasn't."
So you're not, as one writer proposed, "a David Foster Wallace for the backpack set?"
"See, I don't even know what that means," says Aesop, staring weirdly and quietly into his iced coffee. "I get compared to so many authors that I just don't know who they are 'cause I don't really read books."
El-P takes a drag of a Winston, "He's really kind of the Aesop Rock of the literary set."
CHRISTOPHER R. WEINGARTEN