Once upon a time, Indie legend Aesop Rock joined El-P’s label Definitive Jux and proceeded to drop five of the greatest albums of the 00’s (which sound even better revisited now), even getting mainstream attention being called one of the top 100 Artists of the Decade by Rolling Stone. Since the beginning, he’s continued to keep us guessing. Just when we think we have this instrumental scorer, superior lyricist and visual artist pegged, he will announce a brilliant left field project that shows his versatility and blows preconceptions to pieces yet again. Case in point, his latest collaboration forms a new duo called The Uncluded with Kimya Dawson and will drop their first project on May 7th, Hokey Fright.
During a break on the road for his latest tour, he took the time to answer some of my weird questions below. Peep his answers and videos below and follow Aesop Rock on Twitter and Facebook for more info on his new project. Catch him live next at the Coachella Music Festival in April!
What’s a day in the life of Aesop Rock right now?
Right now it’s wake up, get in the van, drive to a city – usually straight to a venue, load in, sound check, do a show, load out, eat some food, go to hotel, repeat. All while checking emails on my phone and scratching down the occasional rhyme. When I’m off tour I’ve been working on videos for The Uncluded record, and will begin rehearsals for that tour soon. I feel like a living grave.
When did you know you wanted to be a MC?
I don’t think you ever know you want to be an MC, you just kind of start doing one day. With friends, out of boredom or out of a fascination with music, maybe some combo of the two. You start fucking around and freestyling, and then you write the occasional verse on paper to kick to your friends. The idea of going out to be an MC never really happened for me. It was just always there, on the side of whatever else I was doing. The shocking part is when you realize it is becoming something people enjoy, and it starts making that shift from a pastime to a focus.
What’s the most surreal like “WTF am I doing here?” moment you’ve had in your music career thus far?
I feel like that every single time I am on stage. I have a hard time believing any of this, only because the job is so weird. I can’t believe people come to see me, and buy my music. It’s a real weird feeling. I guess I’ve been on the occasional bill that’s extra weird, but that kinda stuff happens from time to time. I mean just this week they announced this year’s Soundset with Snoop headlining. If you had told me that I’d be on a festival with Snoop one day back when he came out on Deep Cover with Dre, I’d have told you you were insane.
How was it working with Del Tha Funkee Homosapien?
Del is a hero of mine. I’ve met him on a couple occasions, but when we recorded that song together for the Wu meets the Indie Culture project we were not together. I got the track with Del’s verse already on there, and was super geeked that he put my name in his rhyme. The guy is a legend, so the fact that we’re on a song together is an accomplishment i’d never dreamed could happen.
You recently collaborated with Seattle group Dark Time Sunshine? How was that experience?
Ah those guys are great. I’ve known Onry for many years, and we have a great friendship. He’s one of the few genuine people I’ve met through working in music. I met Zavala through Onry, and he’s another awesome guy, great attitude and super funny. Also wildly talented. We toured with them a bunch in the last year and I was really happy to get Zavala on board with a remix. I’ve also rapped on a couple of their projects. I’m sure we’ll all do more together.
Who are your top 5 MCs of all time?
Oh man I don’t know. Slick Rick, ______, ______, ______, and ______.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself?
I can’t put my finger on a single thing – It’s really all pretty weird. I just had to realize at some point that nobody will ever experience this stuff the way I do. My relationship with music is my own, and as much as a writer might try to get into where my head is/was at, they’re just off. even the ones that are right are wrong.
Do you prefer scoring or writing rhymes?
Scoring like movies? or making beats? I like making beats and rhyming in different ways, though they are both important to me. I like having one to go to when the other is failing me. They both have the ability to ruin my day, or bring me a great sense of accomplishment. I’ve been writing rhymes for longer, so I guess maybe that’s my true “passion”, but I love making beats and producing songs. If i can produce a full song as well as write and record all of the lyrics, it feels really awesome. It feels like the song is really mine.
How do you handle critics now compared to how you would have handled it earlier in your career?
I’d like to say they don’t get under my skin that much, and to a degree it is way less than it used to be – but at the same time when you read something negative that just seems completely unrelated to what you’ve done and know you’ve accomplished, it occasionally can sting. I do my best to brush it all off – and always do eventually, but its weird to be critiqued publicly, so it can lead to some strange feelings of “ah please – fuck off”.
Are you still a skater?
i skate to the store sometimes. I keep a set up but i’m far from an active skateboarder. Still absolutely love skateboarding though, and it’s a culture that shaped so much of what I do that I owe a ton to it. As a somewhat anti-social kid, skating brought me together with a bunch of interesting people from differing backgrounds, people i’d have otherwise never met. it got me out of the bubble of my own home town.
What are the pros and cons of being and staying indie?
It’s kinda all I know. I never really dabbled with any major label stuff – I dont know that a major label would have a use for me. My only goal is to make my music and have it put out in a fair and organized way. I’m a terrible business man, so whoever can provide an environment where I can shut down and just make shit is good for me. The relationship is only good if everyone on all sides of the release are genuinely excited about it. Besides, at this point, the lines between indie and major can be so blurred. It’s not as much of an us-vs-them as it used to be.
Being someone with a visual art background, how important is your cover art for your albums and EPs?
It’s very important for me. I like to see what kind of imagery I wrote about over the course of an album, and then find the perfect match for it. I can’t stand when someone spends a ton of time on making an album, and then just slaps some bullshit cover on it. The music is my priority during the album-making, but then it comes to packaging the thing, i want it to be a visual representation of what you will here. I love being involved in that process and doing my best to direct the art a bit.
Do you still paint?
I keep a sketch book. havent painted in a long time.
Do you still consider yourself an outsider from the glitz and glamour of fame?
Ha. I am not very glamorous. I just retired the pair of jeans I had worn for about 2 years straight last week. I replaced them with a new pair of the same pants.
Who would you not want to trade lives with?
What do you have planned for the rest of 2013?
In May my group with Kimya Dawson – The Uncluded – will be releasing our debut album “Hokey Fright”. I have some solo touring to finish up – then Uncluded release and touring for that. Then trying to finish the second Hail Mary Mallon album.