Reluctant Superhero: Part Two

    [Part 2 of 3]

    Here is Part 2 of the interview with Aesop Rock …



    Prefix Magazine:
    What were you listening to growing up?

    Aesop Rock:
    I was listening to a lot of shit. My brother was just like a music
    fanatic of all sorts. So very early on he showed me who Run D.M.C. was
    and who the Beastie Boys were and later, Boogie Down Productions. Rap
    is what I immediately caught onto as far as what I felt like doing. But
    he was playing the Dead Kennedys and playing all sorts of punk rock
    shit and weird spaced-out alternative shit. I heard a lot of shit
    growing up.

    There’s a Fugazi reference on Bazooka Tooth, I think.

    Aesop Rock:
    That is a Fugazi reference. So, yeah, he showed me who Fugazi was. Just
    like different bands. I just heard a bunch of shit. I didn’t like all
    of it, but I heard a lot of shit growing up, which is cool.

    You know when you’re young and you just wanna be a snob say … ‘No,
    it’s only hip-hop, blah, blah, blah … ‘ I feel like every year, I’m
    just like, it’s OK to like all sorts of music. People don’t realize

    I like a bunch of shit. I definitely was primarily interested by rap
    music. But at this point I don’t even care; I’ll listen to anything
    that I think is good.

    Are you listening to anything right now that’s not hip-hop?

    Aesop Rock:
    Yeah, totally. I’ve been listening to Queens of the Stone Age a lot and
    this group the Mountain Goats. I have pretty much everything they’ve
    ever done and I can’t stop listening to it.

    That new record’s pretty good.

    Aesop Rock:
    Tallahassee. Yeah, it’s all right.

    He does a lot of stuff with Franklin Bruno. John Darnielle is the
    Mountain Goats. They’re the Extra Glenns together. They do a bunch of
    4-track side project-type stuff.

    Aesop Rock:
    Most of the Mountain Goats stuff was like boom-box recordings until recently. Tallahassee
    is growing on me, and I like it now, but it took me a minute. He’s got
    so many albums, it’s pretty dope. I think he’s a pretty good writer, a
    song writer, and he’s obviously a pretty prolific guy.

    At what point did you decide this was what you were going to do with your life?

    Aesop Rock:
    I always made music, and I was doing it growing up. I played piano as a
    kid, I played bass. I played a bunch of instruments and then I started
    doing rap. But I never ever thought I would live off of it.

    Even after I did my first record for a label, which was Float (on Mush), I was still working. Once I signed to Def Jux and put out Labor Days,
    El basically called me and was like, ‘Quit your job tomorrow. You gotta
    go on tour man.’ And I was like, ‘I can’t, man, I work.’

    And he said, ‘Yeah, well, you got a different job now.’ And I
    was like, ‘OK.’ I called my mom up, and got yelled at for a while and
    that was basically it.

    I was working until 2001. Just these last two years I’ve been able to
    scramble. You know, some months are more plentiful than others. I’m
    definitely searching for rent part of the time, and then I’ll have a
    chunk of money and I’ll have to stretch it out.

    But it’s been working, so I’m just gonna let it go for now, because it just means I can sleep later.

    Was your mom pissed that this is what you decided to do?

    Aesop Rock:
    Pretty much. At that point, I’d been doing music for awhile. I had a
    record out on a label. I had a bunch of shit that I was doing. But I
    don’t know how much she really knew about it. And then both my brothers
    called her and were like, ‘No, he has fans. I think he’s gonna be all
    right. You don’t have to worry. This isn’t just like some blind
    decision. This is something that he’s grown into and he actually has a
    fan base and people want to see him.’

    So it took a while. Me and my brothers were just sending her
    magazine clippings, anything I could find that would convince her.
    Because you know, I didn’t ask her. I was basically like, ‘I’m quitting
    my job to do rap.’

    I just wanted to do it with her blessing. It’s still a little shaky to
    her. But I’ve been telling her whenever I’m in whatever magazine. Now I
    think she thinks it’s cool. She doesn’t really listen to the music. She
    doesn’t like that I curse. She kinda gets it.

    I tell her the things that I think she’ll like. NPR just did a story on
    me. I knew my mom would like that, so I was like, ‘Mom, I’m on fuckin’

    She was like, ‘Oh, maybe he is successful.’ NPR actually means something to her. To tell her I’m in like Murder Dog Magazine doesn’t really mean anything to her.

    What did NPR do?

    Aesop Rock:
    They just did a little spot about the new record on ‘All Things
    Considered.’ It wasn’t anything major, but I guess it’s good to be on
    NPR, because it’s … national. It’s basically everywhere. Yeah, mom
    liked that.

    Jumping around … Is your style still evolving?

    Aesop Rock:
    I hope so. I don’t really want to make the same record two times in a
    row ever. I think it’s wrong to purposefully change it for any reason.
    But I think naturally anyone’s gonna grow and change over the course of
    their life. I’m definitely not rapping about the same things I was
    rapping about when I was 17.

    Every record I think I’ve done is a little different that the last, but
    you can still see the connection. It should as a rule evolve. If it
    doesn’t than it’s because you’re not letting it, and I that’s kind of
    wrong. I think you’re fucking up if you do that.

    Can you draw that to hip-hop in general? With Def Jux, all the
    records sound different. There’s no label style. You talk about how
    hip-hop has to evolve in general. Does nostalgia for the early-’90s
    sound pigeon-hole it?

    Aesop Rock:
    It’s a little weird these days when everyone’s like, ‘Yeah man, the
    Golden Era of hip-hop: ’94.’ It’s like, rap was around for like over
    ten years before that, so it’s a strange comment.

    You know, pay homage to the pioneers of course, but recognize that it’s
    2003. B-boy Rule No. 1 was always come original with what you’re gonna

    And if you think back to groups that you liked when you were growing
    up, When you heard Run D.M.C. why did you like them? ‘Cause they were
    different than anything you’ve ever heard in your life. When you heard
    Boogie Down Productions for the first time or EPMD or De La Soul or
    Kool G. Rap. It was all people that you were just like, ‘this doesn’t
    sound like anything I’ve ever heard. This shit’s sick.’

    Hopefully, that’s what I want to do. Now, we get pigeonholed as
    left of center, some of us do. And it’s like, no man, I’m just doing
    what I thought we were supposed to do, which is come with some original

    Just ’cause I’m not taking what’s hip now and copying it. Not that I
    don’t like it. I like a lot of mainstream shit too. But I don’t care
    about copying people. If I find something that I think is really
    original and dope, it doesn’t make me want to copy it. It makes me want
    to be less like it, and be original in my own right.

    Who would win in a round-robin Def Jux arm wrestling tournament, single elimination?

    Aesop Rock:
    Camu, or C-Rayz. They’re just physically strong. We’re talking arm wrestling, right?

    Aren’t you lifting weights?

    Aesop Rock:
    I mean, no. I’ve never lifted a weight in my life.

    I thought I read somewhere that you were trying to be more healthy.

    Aesop Rock:
    I started running, but then I stopped running. I ran for a couple days.
    But Camu would fuckin’ punch my head off my shoulders. So would C-Rayz.
    And then there’s Vast who might be able to take it ’cause he’s big.

    Yeah, he seems like a big guy. How tall are you?

    Aesop Rock:
    I’m like 6 foot 4. But Camu’s like 6 foot 3 and completely diesel.
    C-Rayz grew up as a fighter. Either of those two could probably manage
    pretty well in an arm wrestling tournament. They could pretty much tear
    my limbs off.

    What about with basketball?

    Aesop Rock:
    Camu, definitely. He’s fuckin’ mad ill. He probably could’ve played for
    real, but he stared rapping and doing drugs. But he’s still sick with
    it. Ridiculous with it. He’s like better than all those And 1
    motherfuckers. And Blockhead’s actually really nice at ball.

    Video games?

    Aesop Rock:
    It depends. We all play video games. Me, El’s kind of falling off, man,
    I gotta tell you. Lif and me and Murs and Vast and Camu. We’re all like
    pretty …

    Rjd2 too, right?

    Aesop Rock:
    He kind of fronts. [Laughs.}

    I interviewed him, and he said he was a videogame junkie.

    Aesop Rock:
    He is now, but he’s not O.G. with it. He plays now and he likes it.
    Murs is O.G. and Lif is O.G., and I’ve been playing forever, and now Rj
    likes it.

    I don’t know who would take it. Lif always plays sports shit, which I don’t really play sports games. So it’s all different.

    What do you play?

    Aesop Rock:
    I play adventure shit. I play some sports shit, like NBA Street or NBA 2K3. But I don’t play Madden or any of that bullshit. But I play adventure games. I like the whole Zelda series a lot.

    On that tour video, Revenge of the Robots, Lif was freaking out about his memory cards. I felt bad for him.

    Aesop Rock:
    That’s part of it, you know. You gotta watch your memory cards. When you’re on tour, someone might snatch that shit up.

    I’ve never seen anything like that.

    Aesop Rock:
    Camu’s always erasing my shit, saving games over my shit. I gave him my
    GameCube, just like, ‘Here, play with this for a while. Just don’t
    erase my shit.’ I don’t even want it back anymore because none of my
    stuff’s going to be on my memory card. It’s gonna be gone.

    Are you X-Box or PS2?

    Aesop Rock:
    I got all of them. Mostly PS2 because they have the most games. GameCube was pretty garbage-y but they had Zelda so I had to buy it. X-Box I recently bought, which is cool. I got Socom.
    X-Box could be dope, it just doesn’t have anything dope right now. But
    PS2 is consistent. Not event that consistent lately, but they have the
    most shit. It’s my system of choice.

    People like Murs, who play videogames like a motherfucker, but he won’t
    even buy a PS2. He’s really snobby with it. He has the Malcolm X-Box.
    He believes that the X-Box is the videogame system of black America. So
    he won’t buy a Playstation. I could show him ten of the best games he’s
    ever seen and he won’t get it.

    X-Box Nation Magazine interviewed him and he just dissed the
    shit out of me for having a PS2. I just have all of them. Nintendo will
    have a game once a year, and I’ll need that. You know, I’m a loser.