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Hip-Hop on Parade: Trading E-mail with Aesop Rock 

click to enlarge You need goggles like that when you send these kind of e-mails.
  • You need goggles like that when you send these kind of e-mails.
You need goggles like that when you send these kind of e-mails.
Aesop Rock is coming to Bend along with the esteemed gentlemen of the Hieroglyphics crew and a gaggle of other hip-hop all stars for what very well might be the most prolific hip-hop event this town has seen since we got that shipment of water-damaged Sir Mix A Lot cassettes in '91. I wanted to get some phone time with Aesop Rock, but was told that Mr. Rock prefers questions be directed his way in the form of e-mail. I obliged and here's what Aesop Rock had to type about Tom Waits, curtain installation and reading National Geographic:

tSW: A slightly pedantic question: Indie hip-hop, or alternative hip-hop or however you want to "genre-ify" it, seems to be increasingly drawing on influences outside of the hip-hop arena. What's your most significant non-hip-hop influences past and present?

Aesop Rock: Probably either the Mountain Goats or Tom Waits. They both happen to strike that chord in me that usually only a savage MC can get to. They both are masters at their craft, they put a massive amount of effort into the lyric-writing aspect of all of this, and each have distinct deliveries that work hand-in-hand with the way they write. I'm a longtime fan of both. Tom Waits' albums have such unique production, and overall drunkenness to them. I dunno, I could go on about them each forever.

A marital question: Your wife Allyson [Baker] plays guitar on your record. Hell, my wife and I can collaborate on a project like, say, putting up curtains, but I think we'd last about 15 seconds working together professionally. Are you two a pretty good creative team?

I think we are, yeah. We both like to make a lot of music, and luckily we are fans of each other, too. I remember the first time I ever saw her band play, just thinking to myself, 'God I hope this doesn't suck.' Luckily it didn't. We have a studio at home that we both use a lot, and help each other a lot. If I'm stuck, I ask her for a suggestion and vice versa. Of course there are days when we just can't see eye-to-eye, but usually it's pretty smooth. When I'm making beats and need some guitar I often ask for very specific stuff, and she kinda just goes with it. We are both fairly easy going and I love that we can work together without any sort of hassle. Not to mention, neither of us could successfully install curtains, anyway-together or separate.

A geographical question: It there a surge of new music coming out of SF right now, or is that just an observation from an out of towner such as myself?

Well I'm a bit of a newcomer myself, so I really don't know. I do know that it is a city that does not hesitate to support the arts, and just creative living in general. It's a D.I.Y. city. Everyone seems to be in their own little world, getting wrapped up in some oddball project. It's a rare thing to find. NY had it. SF has it. A few other places I'd imagine have it, but it's really not something that's as common as you'd hope. It's immediately apparent upon entering SF that the city really takes pride in both its historical significance as well as its current goings on.

A question soaked in name-dropping: The Bend show features the Hieroglyphics boys, NW favorites Blue Scholars, among other names. Do you like playing big bills or what's your preferred touring strategy?

I think it just so happened that the Heiro tour and our tour were hitting Bend the same night, so we were asked if we wanted to combine the bills. I thought it was a cool idea and could make for a pretty good night for rap fans in Bend. That's a lot of people in one room that don't get to get together as often as I'd hope. Hiero are like rap superheroes to me, so I'm just honored to share the stage.

A hopefully flattering question (or questions): You're known for cerebral and sometimes quirky lyrics. Where do you get some of these lines? I always supposed your wit came from voluminous reading, but I heard you aren't really a big reader. Is that true?

I'm not a big novel reader. I read lame shit, like National Geographic cover to cover, and some random science journals and video game magazines. I really just like trying to do stuff I haven't heard much before, whether it's content, flow, vocab, patterns, production, etc. I like putting words together, and it's really not much deeper than that. So much of rap music is the same vocab, flows, styles, etc. just recycled for years and years by different people. It's hard to take some of this stuff seriously. You'll hear something that has obviously been done to death, and be like...."Really man? this is what youre coming with in 2008? this is it?"

A question about the future powered by 1.21 gigawats: Any new projects around the bend?

I should be on a flurry of upcoming releases doing guest rapping and beats. I just did some work on the new Cage record. A Weathermen album is in the works and will probably get really deep into that once Cage's solo record is done. I'm always working on new Aesop solo shit, but I dunno where that's headed, or when. I actually also got a pretty big (for me) production gig coming up, but I am unfortunately sworn to secrecy on it. Ha. But I'll continue to stay busy 'til my ears give out.

Aesop Rock and Hieroglyphics, Blue Scholars, Musab, Knobody, Tanya Morgan
7pm doors, 8pm show Monday, September 22. Midtown Ballroom, 51 NW Greenwood Ave. $23/advanced, $25/door.


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