Long Island rapper Ian Bavitz’s, more famously known as Aesop Rock, seventh album, the recently released The Impossible Kid, is a continuation of his rapid-fire, storytelling style of hip-hop. It is a heady tirade of anecdotes on the American way of life gone wrong, composed of intricately crafted fighting words.
Like Aesop, the ancient Greek fable-teller of legend who Bavitz is named after, Aesop Rock “[makes] use of humble incidents to tell great truths.” The Impossible Kid is no exception, as Bavitz spits life lessons over stripped down, dubstep-style beats that are often drowned out, and even seem superfluous at times, by Aesop Rock’s incessant attention to lyrical detail and meaning. Bavitz also uploaded the album on YouTube four days before its release, in the form of a shot-by-shot claymation remake of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, according to Indiewire.
Some highlights included “Rings,” which explores Bavitz’s childhood love of painting over a classical-music-meets-Tron-soundtrack 16th note ascending keyboard part that leads into a Run the Jewels-inspired beat. He goes into detail about the process of painting portraits, opining on drawing natural light on a person’s face, torsos that are just slightly disproportional to their head and “drinking Kool-Aid from a tube of acrylic.”
However, the primary theme was his regret of giving up painting and allowing “skills to deteriorate” after “A week goes by and it goes untouched/Then two, then three, then a month/And the rest of your life you beat yourself up.” Rapping about such a personal, “soft” topic over such a hard-hitting beat, produced by Bavitz himself, catches you off guard and plays into his vulnerable, tough-guy persona.
The next song, “Lotta Years,” dives deeper into his insecurities, this time into feelings of inferiority and competitiveness he encounters in everyday life. The first verse is an anecdote about a Baskin-Robbins server who has a tattoo of a lipstick mark right above his collar, announcing to the world that “the guy F’s chicks.” He espouses that the server’s tattoo is much cooler than his also visible bat tattoo, saying, “Some 22-year-old inside a cube of brick and mortar/Got me questioning my morals and their corny pecking order.”
Bavitz laments his old age and his neglect of the opportunity to grow dreadlocks like a girl at a local juice shop, half-complaining, “My hair was underwhelming/My juice was fucking great.” He ends the song self-consciously bragging about his formerly cool persona as a young person in the ‘80s, an interesting passage from a rapper who has managed to keep himself and his individualized style of hip-hop relevant while approaching the age of 40.
Another standout is “Blood Sandwich.” Bavitz sets up one of the most downhome American settings in existence: his brother’s little league game from 1987. The descriptions of the game are vivid but predictable, until a gopher plopped out of its hole and started scurrying around the field. Everyone is amused except for the head coach who, in “a scene that would try every child as adults,” beats it to death with an aluminum baseball bat.
The chorus goes, “My brother is a funny dude/A lot of funny shit happened to him,” a sentiment to keep in mind as Bavitz spins his brothers’ tales, one of which details their super-religious mother not allowing his older brother attend a “cultish” Ministry concert. Bavitz states, “Just in case of rough waters/I wanna put one up for my brothers,” by telling their story on a platform he and very few other people can access: the forefront of underground hip-hop.
The Impossible Kid contains a buttload of little, yet magnifying, details in its 48-minute runtime. Perhaps most importantly, it cements the relevance of his fairly un-changing musical style and poetic ability in the shifting stylistic landscape of hip-hop.