By Angelo Gingerelli
“Don’t ever count the (Impossible) kid out” –Environmental Studies (2015)
Since debuting in the late 90’s Aesop Rock has continued to set the standard for avant-guard, abstract and progressive Hip-Hop. Whether he’s addressing the education system (Commencement at the Obedience Academy), work & capitalism (9-5’ers Anthem), individuality (No Regrets), operating outside the music industry (We’re Famous), following dreams (Get Away Car) or ruminations on adolescence (Catacomb Kids) Aesop Rock has found a way to stay so far ahead of the curve that his music from nearly two decades ago still sounds futuristic today. After a four year hiatus since his last full length release (2012’s Skelethon) Aes is back with The Impossible Kid which is arguably his most personal album to date and inarguably one the best releases of this year.
“All I ever wanted was to pick apart the day, put the pieces back together my way” –Daylight (2001)
The Impossible Kid is entirely self-produced and, like most Aesop Rock projects, has all of the elements associated with Hip-Hop (beats, metaphors, adlibs, bragging, etc.) put together in ways that are uniquely original. While Aes has experimented with other genres in the past, this project is unquestionably a rap album. The beats range from aggressive (“TUFF”), to ethereal (“Super Cell”) to sounding like they were sampled from an 80’s video game (“Lazy Eye”), but never stray from the boom bap associated with his native New York City.
“It’s not some watered down version of what my favorite crew did” –We’re Famous (2003)
Aesop Rock rose to prominence during the indie/backpack/underground era of Hip-Hop that stood in stark contrast to the glitz & glamour of most commercial rap music of the late 90’s . While clearly influenced by the generation of MC’s before them, this subgenre was almost obsessed with originality and produced some or the most progressive and unorthodox music of the time. This commitment to being different is apparent on “The Impossible Kid” as the songs deal with subjects not seen on many albums regardless of genre. Songs like “Defender” (the story of a neighborhood terrorized by a bobcat) or “Kirby” (detailing his relationship with his pet cat) are so original it’s hard to compare them to anything else in the marketplace.
There are a few recurring themes on the album like how deeply the passing of friend/fellow artist Camu Tao affected him (several mentions), growing older (“Lotta Years”), staying artistically on top of your game (“Rings”) and mental health (“Water Tower”) that have been addressed before in Aes’ music but really hit home here.
“Knock ‘Em Out The Box Aes” –Catacomb Kids (2007)
There are a number of very personal songs on the record that all resonate. “Blood Sandwich” (best song title ever?) details one story about each of his brothers featuring one of the most bizarre little league scenarios of all time and a parent/child disagreement about a concert that will sound familiar to anybody that grew up listening to controversial music. “Get Out of the Car” finds Aesop Rock at his most vulnerable as his self-talk changes from the extremely confident “Knock ‘Em Out The Box Aes” from 2007 to the somewhat somber decision to just get up and try at life… “Get Out of the Car, Aes.” On an album with many highlights these two tracks stand out as the ones fans will play far into the future.
Aesop Rock’s The Impossible Kid contains some of the most skilled songwriting, creative production and refreshing subject matter currently being released in any genre of music. The album is one of the strongest of his long career and one of the most creative records of the last several years.
Perfect For: Your headphones during a long cardio session or commute on public transportation
Best Songs: “Blood Sandwich”, “Lotta Years”, “Rings”, “Get Out of the Car”
Rating 8.5 out of 10
Also Worth Checking Out…
Drake – Views: You’re probably already tired of some of these songs, but Toronto’s finest proves why he’s still running the game.
A$AP Ferg –Always Strive And Prosper: Once known as A$AP Rocky’s sidekick, Ferg takes his game to a “New Level” on his second full-length release
J-Zone – Fish-n-Grits: J-Zone examines the generation gap in Hip-Hop over the course of an album that will have you both nodding your head and laughing out loud.