I was a kid when I first started emceeing. I got into it at a time when “indie” or “underground” hip-hop music was at a pinnacle of growth. I most likely share many of the same influences as your favorite rapper. And I am most certainly fond of many of the same lyricists that you are.
But there are few moments in life that compare to the first time I heard Aesop Rock.
For those of you who are not familiar, Aesop Rock is a rapper in a universe of his own. He is to hip-hop what Salvador Dali is to visual art. He is a born innovator, a workingclass icon blessed with an artistic vision that gives you the feeling that he is sitting on the edge of infinity peering in at our world through the holes he’s poked into time’s fabric. His work has consistently amazed and influenced me.
And I have recently been blessed with an opportunity to ask him whatever the hell I want.
CLIFTON: What was the last thing that made you smile?
AESOP: We just blew up a bunch of shit at the 900Bats office [headquarters of a website that Aesop Rock runs], melted some action figures with fireworks, etc. It was a grand old time.
What was the last song you wrote about?
The one I am working on now is based around an image of me in like 20 years — robe, black socks, front porch, rocking chair, shaking a fist at the kids as they go by and starting most of my sentences with “Kids these days …” That image, in rap form.
What is your least favorite question to be asked in an interview?
I guess general “what inspires you?” [questions] or things like that that just have no meaning or answer. I also don’t like when people ask “On the third song of the b-side of your second tape, you said this line. What does it mean?” I dunno why — I guess it’s just a pet peeve.
What is the answer to the aforementioned question? Not trying to be a smart-ass here.
Inspiration comes from everywhere and nowhere. You could work on something closely for a year and not figure it out. Then one day you take a walk and — boom — it all makes sense in your head. Things come together when they will.
If you could collaborate with any artist dead or living, who would it be?
Hmm. Probably nobody. Hahaha. I dunno — collaborating is so specific, and it’s rare it works on a level beyond seeing the two names together. I was really happy to make a full record with Rob Sonic, and am working on a full album now with Kimya Dawson. Those both feel great and seem to mean something in my life. But cold-calling people to collab is a weird thing. I’ve had periods where I’ve tried it but the results can be mixed. That said, Tom Waits — holler!
Artistically, who or what is your closest and most personal influence?
That changes a lot. Whoever I’m close to and sharing writing with. These days that’s Rob a lot, just letting him read what I write and hear what I been doing, and listening to him make his new album, it’s pretty awesome and influential. Kimya, too.
How has the tour experience been with the current line-up?
It’s been really awesome. There was some worry in the beginning if mixing the genres would be hard for some people to swallow, but it’s really been special.
Aesop Rock performs with Kimya Dawson, Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz • Sun, Aug. 28, at 8 pm • Knitting Factory • $16-$18 • All-ages • ticketfly.com