Alright, let me explain. I’ve noticed that these days, local artists are a bit less active than they were in previous months (or maybe it’s just me and my school-student scheduel, but you can’t argue with the fact that there’s been little to no album releases recently). So I pondered a little on what to fill the void with and remembered how I came across some of my most beloved international artists via people on the internet mentioning them on forums or on their blogs. Well, I’ve done my part in promoting our “nearby stars”, so why not take a quick look at some “distant stars”? To do that I’ll need “The Telescope”. No, I will not make this yet another international music blog, I’m still keeping the local scene my main subject, but what this will do is paint a full portrait of my musical tastes for you which right now is colored in some spots (local stuff) but left blank everywhere else (international stuff). Why would anyone even want to know this stuff? No reason, just throwing it out there I guess. It may give you some insight on why I prefer certain local musicians over others (Oh, no wonder he likes *local band*, apparently he’s a big fan of *international band*, I had no idea). I won’t do a full bio like I do for local artists, because they either have none or incomplete ones, while international ones have Wikipedia articles written and contributed to by their mammoth fan-base. I’ll just break down the sound, lyrics, and what does and doesn’t appeal to me about that artist. And remember, these could range from musicians you must have heard of at least once or twice in your lifetime to musicians you barely knew existed.
I thought I’d start alphabetically for now at least, so I present to you: Aesop Rock
-Lyrics: Aesop Rock is a rapper whose style falls into the abstract rap genre which I am a big fan of. It is characterized by seemingly nonsense lyrics that sort of flow out of the rapper’s psyche in a stream-of-consciousness type of way. For some reason I find myself liking these kinds of artists who write weird lyrics (Beck, Bjork, etc…), perhaps because they don’t just need you to think but to visualize as well, exercising the imagination. Abstract rap still hasn’t quite appeared here in Lebanon though I have seen some glimmers of it in some rappers, but still short of full frontal abstract rap. But Aes Rock’s lyrics aren’t just like “potato tricycle killed my paycheck”, he is quite intelligent and doesn’t just add fancy words to decorate, but uses them to actually illustrate his message. His subject matter ranges from social issues (his album “Labor Days” is a good example), retelling his personal experiences from the past (such as in the song “One of Four”), to his confusion concerning religion (such as in the song “Holy Smokes”). He delivers his rhymes with a powerful attitude, and he has a unique voice and tone, which I feel is just as important in a rapper as his rhymes.
-Sound: He sometimes produces his own beats but his closest collaborator is the producer Blockhead who I find very talented due to his sample-utilizing style, sampling things like violins and harmonicas. I like to think of Aes Rock as one of the more modern rappers I listen to, and by modern I mean neither old-school (RUN-DMC for example) nor old-school revivalist (like Jurassic 5). The difference between modern and old-school sound-wise is that there is a stronger utilization of synthesizers and effects in modern hip hop while back in the day all they had were vinyl records to sample. Next time you listen to a modern hip hop song (Kanye West or Lil’Wayne or something along those lines), look out for the phenomenon of a rapidly looping percussion sound. Think drum n’ bass. You hear a snare loop like that but not like a drum roll, or a hi-hat especially but not like a paradiddle. It sounds artificially created. Back in the day, before drum machines, achieving that sound was hard, but it’s more widespread these days with the availability of technology. Anywho, as I was saying, Aes Rock tends to have a modern sound most times with synths and effects, but also relies on samples, not to mention scratching.
Yes, Aesop Rock to me is truly a shining jewel in the treasure chest of hip hop…
That concludes the first edition of “The Telescope”. I hope this was informative and not just filler. I’ll be doing this regularly, but only when I’m really scraping the bottom of the barrel.