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Aesop Rock with Rob Sonic and DJ Zone - The Metro - (Chicago) - June 3rd, 2016

4 June 2016

Located in the heart of the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago, The Metro seems to be in the epicenter of early evening north-side nightlife. Throngs of drunk Cubs fans fill the sidewalks, and the air teems with beer, sweat and yelling, not to mention the absolute nightmare that is driving through that part of town in the late afternoon. It’s fitting then, that The Metro served as a safe haven for me that evening, beckoning in eager crowds to see Aesop Rock, who would be supported by both Rob Sonic and DJ Zone. The venue is on the larger end in terms of Chicago venues, and I was quickly given my credentials, and ushered up to a table on the upper balcony, above the main floor. It was a highly anticipated event, as Aesop’s Impossible Kid tour was gaining both incredible attention and good reviews. We saw an opener by Homeboy Sandman, who did well in amping the crowd up (and who would later return on stage with Aesop), but it seemed that the crowd was entirely too focused on the main act.

I should preface this piece by noting that this publication hardly, if ever, covers rap. I was never really a fan of rap myself, and aside from artists like Kendrick Lamar, or Childish Gambino, I had found the whole genre senselessly crude, and saw it as a digression of what 90’s rap was- a call for social justice- as opposed to current-day rap, the majority of which seems to glorify violence, gang culture, and other societal issues. This is where I believe Aesop Rock truly stands out, and is why I’m choosing to cover an indie rapper in this week’s review.

Born on Long Island, Aesop, whose real name is Ian Bavitz, had a fairly normal childhood. The middle child of two other brothers, Bavitz’s musical career started during his attendance at Boston University, where he met his future collaborator, Blockhead, while finishing up his bachelor’s in visual arts. Releasing his first two records in college (Music for Earthworms and Appleseed), Bavitz’s first big break came with the release of Float in 2000, just two years after he graduated from college. Shortly after, Bavitz signed to Def Jux, where he released Labor Days in 2001, with tracks like Labor beginning to show up on Billboard, ultimately leading to a slew of new albums. Bazooka Tooth was released in 2004, followed up by other “bigger” albums, such as None Shall Pass, which was released just after his collarboration with the Nike+iPod campaign in 2007. After a short hiatus, followed by some smaller works, we finally arrive at the Skelethon and Impossible Kid tours, the latter of which began on April 29th of this year, one that I had the pleasure of seeing last night.

Explanations aside, I’d like to focus more on the show, and why, more importantly, I felt it was necessary to cover Aesop, in a publication that doesn’t seem to ever cover rap. There was an energy last night that I had never seen before in a show, he launched into track after track without pause, effortlessly delivering new, more homely songs like Blood Sandwich (off of his new album), to some of his much older work in 1997. The Impossible Kid, recorded in a secluded barn just outside of Portland, offers some of the best growth we’ve seen from Aesop. It’s the product of a man turning 40 and looking back on his work, and he delivered it with a punch, every detailed lyric proving that this wasn’t just a run of the mill rap show, this was an experience for the listeners, the ability for us to listen to a story woven for 20 years, and even though some of it may be hard to understand, it was certainly worth the effort for us to listen. Perhaps it’s good to note in this piece that Aesop has the largest vocabulary in Hip-Hop, overtaking not only 85 other rap artists, but also Shakespeare’s works, and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick as well. It’s work that’s a product of not just soul-searching, but intense effort to deliver the punchiest message to the listener, one that doesn’t scare away from abstract lyrics, and that’s the beauty of it. Aesop doesn’t deliver to hype the crowd, he invites us on his journey at the age of 40, and I consider myself incredibly privileged to hear him live. Although this publication doesn’t seem to cover rap, I thought Aesop’s show was certainly worthy of coverage, and I know I certainly didn’t do the show justice in your short review. It would be worth your time to check out The Impossible Kid, as well as Bavitz’s other works. I promise that it’ll be worth your time.