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Album reviews
Aesop Rock
The Impossible Kid
Release year:
03 June 2016 / by Alex Mcmurray (author)

How does one even begin to review an Aesop Rock album? His work usually makes me feel like I'm about one thousand mystic runes short of any chance of comprehension. However, Aesop's newest, The Impossible Kid, is probably his most approachable work yet. It's not a collection of vapid, deceitful love songs like what you might hear on the radio, but it isn't Citronella, either. On this album, Aesop's almost directly addresses the listener on multiple occasions, as well as telling some stories in chronological order without the use of overly complicated metaphors. Some might say that something was lost, but I would disagree; to me, Aes is simply flexing newly grown muscles of relatability, concision, and storytelling on many of this album's songs while still delivering something very much akin to his older work on others. For example, while "Blood Sandwich" tells two stories with uncharacteristic clarity, one only has to listen to the first few bars of "Shrunk" to see that Aesop Rock hasn't lost any of his skills. "Shrunk" then goes on to tell a story as well, blending Aesop's unique and interesting raconteur abilities with his almost inhuman capacity for metaphor, imagery and unusual vocabulary. Even more impressively, this album was entirely self produced, meaning that the dope beat underneath the song is also something we can thank Aesop for. In fact, "Shrunk" is (in these ways and others) somewhat of a microcosm of the album as a whole, but I'll get back to that...

After having sold almost all of his belongings and moved to a cabin in the woods, Aesop Rock obviously had quite a bit to think about. The Impossible Kid sounds somewhat like a therapy session based on all the factors that pushed him to that choice. The album touches on a lot of topics that one might speak to a therapist about: childhood, growing old, self-doubt, the fallout of the death of one of Aesop's closest friends, and more. Shrink's subject matter, literally a song about seeing a therapist, hating the experience but knowing that he needs it, when taken with everything I said about it above, displays why it could be seen as a microcosm for the whole album. However, I think that reducing the entire album to one metaphor, and one purpose is both disrespectful to Aes and reductive and constrictive to the album. For example, the song "Dorks" is Aesop Rock's fiery critique of much of what is happening in popular rap music these days, flinging fierce disrespect at the Dorks who most definitely deserve the ridicule, and explaining why he feels that way and why he has the credentials to speak out. Could that song be shoved under the metaphor of a therapy session? Sure. But is that really all that it is, and doesn't that cut the song's claws a bit?

I think that, as always, full comprehension of this work will elude most of us for a very long time. Despite that, the album is full of dark, intricate beats that are related in theme, tone, and timbre. His raps are impressive, funny, heartfelt, dark, trippy, complex, emotionally satisfying, wise, and worth listening to. The album isn't perfect, for example, the hook on "The Watertower" feels very awkward and out of place to me, but the fact that I am having to rattle my brain to find anything to complain about speaks volumes. I have already heard this album more than twenty times, digging into it both for pleasure and for wisdom, and I think that you should do the same. Oh, and to answer the unspoken question at the album's end: yes, Aesop, I promise that I would still listen to your work if you managed to live a healthier, happier life. Please keep being yourself and delivering your music because some of us absolutely love it! 

The author

Alex Mcmurray

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