Aesop Rock Wins

By Ron Barker

Aesop Rock has been a busy man this past year, releasing a full length album (None Shall Pass on Definitve Jux) and a 45-minute Nike+iPod track (All Day) as well as touring three different continents. As if that wasn’t enough, Aesop recently released a new track on his Myspace page in collaboration with Tobacco and booked a handful of shows on the west coast. I don’t know how he found the time to respond to all the questions in my e-mail. Aesop Rock, you’re a winner in my book.

Your new song “Dirt” is banging. What was working with Tobacco like? How did you guys hook up?
Thanks so much! Tobacco is one member of the group Black Moth Super Rainbow. “Tobacco” is the name he goes by for his solo work. I brought BMSR on tour with me for a lot of shows last year. I have always toured with close friends, but I decided to try to switch it up, listen to a lot of new music and blindly pick something I thought was good. I heard many, many, many terrible albums. The two that stood out as gems in an otherwise shitty pack were BMSR and the Octopus Project, who also joined us on tour for a few weeks last year. Anyway, me and Tobacco are mutual fans, and became friends over the course of the tour, we kinda all became friends, everyone on the shebang. So a couple weeks after that tour ended he sends me the beat, and I liked it a lot, and that was it. He’s got a really great sound. It’s lo-fi, but not in an annoying way, a lot of weird moods that you don’t hear often with hip-hop drums behind them.

You just got done with a lot of touring. How’d that go? Any interesting stories?
It was pretty fantastic. I mean, it also sucked at times. The fantastic times were fantastic, though. The actual shows were really great, tons of people, great vibes, good shows. Met a ton of people every night that have been supporting for many years and that is always the best shit ever. The shitty parts were shitty. Being on tour is not easy. I guess some people find comfort in it, but I don’t, and I really kinda have to pace myself. We did a long run in the US, and then to Europe, then Australia. It’s a lot of travel, a lot of time in your own head within unfamiliar surroundings. That type of stuff doesn’t cater well to my creative energy (pardon that expression), and at the end of the day I really am here to make songs. That’s what I like to do. Point blank: it’s stressful, a lot of pressure. But I loved traveling with Blockhead, and I always love Rob [Sonic] and [DJ Big] Wiz.

Last I heard, both you and Mr. Lif had moved to San Francisco. Did Murs talk you guys into it? Has Def Jux been affected by the move? Do you miss New York?
Def Jux is fine. Everyone is scattered geographically, but it’s not affecting the music. I mean as much as it can be perceived as a working unit, it should also be perceived as a bunch of individuals that got this way from hiding out and making tracks. At the end of the day, we all crawl back into our holes and loop some drums. Then we meet up, show each other the new shit, and repeat. Lif is no longer in the Bay. He’s like everywhere. Murs did not talk me into it, but I feel honored to share a piece of his coast for the time being. I’m just buggin’ out for a while. Heading back east at some point when I get around to it. Or maybe moving to a far away land, as in alternate reality or dimension.

Camp Lo makes a guest appearance on Bazooka Tooth, and if my ears don’t deceive me, you’ve sampled them on “Getaway Car.” Can I look forward to a third collaboration?
I would imagine yes at some point. Those guys are amazing—two of my favorite MCs. We just rocked a show together in Toronto earlier this year, and it was great. We’ve spoken about doing more shit, I think it just boils down to everyone being in the same place at the same time.

Tell me about working on All Day. How did the creative process for that type of project differ from other albums?
Well to boil down the problems that need solving in a project like that I guess the major hurdles were that they wanted one 45-minute track. They wanted no samples. I personally felt a quick-pace would work best, so I chose to work within the confines of a 100-120 BPM range, which is fine and all, but I’d never done that much at that tempo. Maybe one or two songs per album are near that. For hip-hop, that’s relatively quick. I just kinda made the outline of a 45-minute song. Then went in and spruced it up, made it change over every minute or so, so it was this kinda ever-morphing tune—some small vocal choruses and such. Played some bass. Recorded some guitar from my lady. I dunno it was very weird. But quite fun. It was a hectic time because my solo album was due a couple weeks after so I remember being frazzled, but it was cool nonetheless.

What have you been listening to lately? Any new rappers worth checking out? Old ones?
Lately I have been listening to a lot of Howard Stern. I like that new Outkast song with Raekwon. I like this beat that El-P just sent me. I like this new Cage song, “Dr. Strong.” I like this Chin Chin record a lot. I like this Clipse mixtape #3 not as much as #2, but it’s dope and is getting run. I can’t think of anything else I’ve heard.

Def Jux has done a bit of cross promotion with Adult Swim, and your last record got a decent amount of airtime on MTV. How has the extra exposure worked out?
The exposure has been great, but it only works when I can back up everything they make me look like. Some days I can, some days I can’t. I guess that’s where the hiding part comes in. I had a busy year, which kinda kept my name popping up a bunch. It was cool that more outlets took notice and helped me out.

How did the Build Your Own Bazooka Tooth idea work out? Any possibility of a similar instrumental/a cappella release for None Shall Pass? Any upcoming projects?
Yes, actually in mid-May we will release the instrumental, a cappella and lyrics to None Shall Pass through a revamped Def Jux site []. The lyrics are accompanied by the photos of Chrissy Piper. She supplied 16 images for the downloadable PDF. It will be free. The instrumentals and a cappellas will be normal price.