A few weeks ago, The New York Times had an interesting article about how white rappers had moved from being outsiders in hip-hop to being the people carrying the torch of the old school — something like the way white guys have largely taken over Chicago-style blues. The article made an interesting argument, but I thought it gave the mistaken impression that all white rappers are still wearing gold chains and Kangol hats. In fact, many of the leading emcees in the forward-looking alternative/independent hip-hop scene are white. And perhaps the most remarkable thing about their presence in the scene is that their skin color seems not to matter.
Aesop Rock is one of the most respected of these white indie rappers. Born Ian Bavitz, Aesop Rock came out of New York around the turn of the millennium (he moved to San Francisco in 2005) and quickly gained a reputation for his artfully complicated lyrics and his laid-back delivery. He also has a knack for writing about unusual subject matter. On the 2007 None Shall Pass, Aesop has a track that begs astronomers to reinstate Pluto as a planet. At least I think that’s what it’s about — this is a guy who raps lines like “Flash that buttery gold, jittery zeitgeist/ Wither by the watering hole, Border Patrol.”
His music is often just as difficult to pin down as his lyrics. Maybe that’s part of the reason Aesop often collaborates with musicians from both inside and outside the hip-hop world. His current tour has him performing with indie-folk star Kimya Dawson.
AESOP ROCK: The Casbah, Saturday, June 18, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $18 advance; $20 day of show.