Known for his extensive lexicon and almost cryptic lyricism, Aesop Rock (born Ian Bavitz) began releasing hip-hop records in the late ’90s and quickly became a phenomenon within the alternative indie-rap community. Through the early 2000s, the New York rapper and producer continued to carve out his place in hip-hop by signing with El-P’s (Run The Jewels) label Definitive Jux and securing the number 15 spot on Billboard’s Independent chart with his debut album Labor Days. A force to be reckoned with, Aesop Rock continues to water the sometimes parched fields of hip-hop by soaking the genre in his unflinching rhetoric and pulling us through a labyrinth of verses.
We caught up with the “Daylight” rapper in advance of his San Antonio appearance at Paper Tiger.
I noticed a continuous tone of vulnerability from your last record Skelethon to the new album The Impossible Kid. What has been the response from your fans in this shift from being somewhat vague to being more transparent about your personal life?
I’m not sure what prompted it — to be honest, I hadn’t realized I really did that until I started playing the songs for others. I think I just go through phases and try to let my writing grow, and that was the stuff I found inspiring at the time. It’s cool to see people connect with it — but it also freaks me out a bit. I kinda forget people will ever hear this music until it’s too late. Ultimately I’m fine with everything on there, but opening up is difficult for anyone — and many do it more and better than me.
On “Blood Sandwich” you mention your brother Chris wanting to go to a Ministry concert. Were you into industrial music like your older bro? What music had a big influence on you growing up?
I think I liked it only because he liked it — and I heard it blasting out of his room fairly often. I looked up to him a lot and he was always up on cool music. I remember hearing Ministry, Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, Pailhead, Einstürzende Neubauten and many more. It’s definitely fun, energetic music. I ultimately gravitated more towards the punkier skate shit, and obviously rap music. But I heard everything.
You put out Music for Earthworms back in ’97 and Impossible Kid is coming out almost 20 years later. Have you accomplished all that you set out to? Is there a producer or artist that you have been meaning to work with but haven’t gotten around to?
I wouldn’t say there’s necessarily a collab I’m chasing. My goal in the beginning was [to] see if I could survive off music for a year, and if not then go back to a day job. It’s weird to think about how long I’ve been doing this — certainly longer than I ever could’ve guessed. I don’t even really like the word “career” because it feels too “pro” for me. I’m mostly falling forward. I don’t think I’ve accomplished all I’ve set out to do — but I also never set those kind of goals, so I don’t even know what that means. I don’t feel fulfilled, and the older I get the more I struggle with really trying to grasp how to take this all to the next level. Either that or just 180 out of here one day mysteriously. Who knows — any time I ever made a plan in my life I fucked it up — so for now I’m just riding.
What’s next? You mentioned you used to draw and paint in this latest album, are we going to see more of that from you in the future? Will we be able to see an Aesop art show soon?
Doubtful. I mean I post doodles and stuff on Instagram but I’m just messing around. My skills are trash — and as much as I always wanted to be awesome in that arena — I’m just not. I do hope to keep busier at it. I find it intensely rewarding when I have little breakthroughs. Pencil and paper just feels like the purest war ever.
Aesop Rock with Rob Sonic and DJ Zone $20, 8pm Wed, July 13, Paper Tiger, 2410 N. St. Mary’s St., papertigersa.com.