By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
I ask Daley about a new song called “Shoes,” which zooms in on a conversation between a man and a woman on her living-room floor, “in between a coma and an erection.”
“Those are your shoes, these are my shoes,” he notices. “We’ve got issues.” He says the cut’s not emo. “I just sound like Tupac on that song.”
“That’s like a fucking standard rap song,” Davis adds. “It sounds like rap, like some hip-hop shit.”
“I think that I accidentally play the part of the character in the story pretty well,” Daley continues, “with my voice and my cadence and where I go, but I wouldn’t call that emo.” He thinks for a split second. “I’d call that act-o.” Laughter all around. “It’s a new genre, spearheaded by me. All the kids’ll be doing it in a minute.”
Daley’s New York–based pal Ian Bavitz, who goes by the approximately 517-times-cooler name Aesop Rock on wax, is less complicated at his record label Def Jux’s Tribeca office earlier that day. Which is unexpected: Bazooka Tooth, Aesop’s excellently titled new album, is an uncommonly dense-ass slab of labyrinthine wordplay and diseased-swamp production, much by the rapper himself. Aesop’s one of those underground MCs for whom a virtual guarantee of zero commercial airplay translates to carte blanche in the verbal-complexity department.
“The Aesop Rock sound isn’t popular,” he says plainly between bites of takeout pad Thai. “People wanna hear something that kind of immediately latches on. And that’s what I wanna hear, too — that’s why I listen to Freeway, some shit that’s immediate adrenaline. And sometimes I wanna hear something where I need to take time with the record.”
Bazooka Tooth’s 70 minutes do require time to properly unpack. Aesop’s production style often sounds like two records playing simultaneously — there’s eerie Arabian bounce, desiccated Blade Runner funk, muscular oompah cave-rock. And where scansion’s a dream with Slug, who rides the beat like a suburban commuter, Aesop burrows deep into the space between the beats, his husky, pinched baritone just spewing words like a fire hose. But his music shares with Atmosphere’s a singularly candid, even immediate emotional intensity. “No Regrets,” a highlight of the rapper’s 2001 breakthrough, Labor Days, charted the life of a hermetic painter named, like Daley’s muse, Lucy. “Dream a little dream or you can live a little dream,” he rapped. “I’d rather live it, ’cause dreamers always chase but never get it.” The new “Babies With Guns” excavates a festering underground of Beanie Babies and drug money, where you field a “midlife crisis when you’re 10 years young”; in “No Jumper Cables,” he illustrates more urban entropy over pealing New Orleans horn blasts and dizzy prog-rock guitar. It’s the same travelogue of everyday disorder Atmosphere delivers, just limited to Aesop’s nonexistent back yard.
“I’m a pretty high-anxiety person,” the MC admits. “I try to have everything be an honest reflection of what’s going on when I’m writing. And, you know, it’s been a funny year and a half in my life. There’s some songs where there’s just weird vocal shit garbled and chopped up to bits, then the beat’ll come out of that, and it’s like — that’s a direct reflection of how I feel every day.”
Atmosphere performs at the Henry Fonda Theater on Monday and Tuesday, September 22 and 23; Aesop Rock performs at the Troubadour on Saturday, September 27.