Aesop Rock has a tattoo on each forearm. One says "Must not sleep," and the other says "Must warn others." Those quotes, from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, encapsulate the most lauded and criticized elements of his career. The Long Island-born MC has been prolific since his 1997 debut, both in albums released and in sheer quantity of lyrics packed into each track. Here lies the criticism: Aesop is abstract, and his homophonic imagery can sound like word salad to the uncharitable ear. For heads, though, his name is synonymous with backpack rap.
Consider this opening salvo on "Fryerstarter," from his most recent release, Skelethon: "Let me put you up on Bob's Donuts, controller of the warm deep fryer that charms cobras. Mostly it was aggravated ulcers over goat's legs. Will they go for maple, custard, buttermilk or wolfsbane?" That one may not move as many records as "Life ain't nothing but bitches and money," but Aesop is selling a product you can't get anywhere else. His obsessive surrealism is horrorcore without the horror, like Tyler the Creator if he cared less about Tyler and more about creation. It's not for everyone but, like a Rorschach blot, it may just contain everything.
Aesop Rock, Busdriver, Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz play the Badlander Tue., April 30, at 9 PM. $20/$17 in advance at Ear Candy, plus $5 surcharge for ages 18-20.