New York native Ian Bavitz started rapping as a teenager, finding Hip Hop inspiration in Public Enemy, Run DMC and Boogie Down Productions while drawing musical influence from Punk outfits like Dead Kennedys, Fugazi and Ministry. Early on, Bavitz acted in a friend’s film and his character’s name became a nickname, ultimately leading to his professional go-by — Aesop Rock.
While in college, Aesop self-released a pair of cool efforts, Music for Earthworms and the Appleseed EP, and began building his slavishly loyal fan base, which quickly translated into label interest. Aesop’s first widely distributed album, 2000’s Float, earned him a broader audience, and its follow-ups (2001’s conceptual Labor Days and 2002’s Daylight EP) were Aesop’s debuts on the Billboard charts. Bazooka Tooth was Aesop’s commercial breakthrough in 2003, followed by 2005’s Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives EP and 2007’s magnificent and decidedly different None Shall Pass.
Aesop had been quiet since then, other than occasional features or production assignments, until his triumphant return to the mic last summer on the patently excellent Skelethon, a showcase for his estimable skills.
Aesop’s Indie style is reminiscent of early Beck while his rumbling vocal rasp and brilliant sense of wordplay leans in the direction of Mike Doughty, not to mention the MC’s numerous Hip Hop heroes. Critically, Aesop has been dinged for a perceived penchant for freeform lyrical nonsense, but that criticism is some ill-conceived punkass whine. Aesop spits fast, dense and smart and then surrounds his rhymes with an edgy and noirish soundtrack.
Who gives an outhouse shit if it doesn’t make linear sense all the time? It makes sense to Aesop Rock, he moves your ass and your soul and that’s all the sense you need, son.
AESOP ROCK performs Wednesday, Feb. 20 with Busdriver, Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz at Thompson House in Newport. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.