Catching up with Aesop Rock

Ian Bavitz, more commonly recognized by his moniker Aesop Rock, is a true underground rap legend that any real hip hop fan knows. His numerous projects include acclaimed solo albums and unique collaborations, including Hail Mary Mallon, comprised of Aesop, fellow rapper Rob Sonic, and DJ Big Wiz. Hail Mary Mallon released their debut album, Are You Gonna Eat That? in 2011, with a much lauded followup, Bestiary, in 2014. Currently on tour, Hail Mary Mallon is set to rock Carrboro’s famed Cat’s Cradle on March 2. We had the pleasure of catching up with Aesop before his appearance at the Cradle.

Show Details:

Monday, Mar 2nd

Aesop Rock w/ Rob Sonic & DJ Abilities plus special guests Homeboy Sandman & DJ Sosa performing live at Cat's Cradle (300 E Main St, Carrboro)

All Ages // $20 adv. // Doors 8pm

More details and tickets available from Cat’s Cradle.

Q: Each of your albums, from Music for Earthworms, to Labor Days, and 2014’s Bestiary, feature distinct sounds. There are definite personal touches evident in your music. Can you describe how you’ve seen your creative process evolve?

A: It's hard to say. I am inside of all of it so I can't really tell that things are changing until I have some hindsight. I think the foundation for my creative process has always been essentially the same - get some hard beats together and write to them. I think they're all just a reflection of the time and environment they were created in, so the evolution of the sound goes hand-in-hand with that. Different apartments, different cities, etc. I mean, obviously, at some point I went from paper to writing on my computer, then my phone. I also went from 4 tracks to digital 8 tracks to pro tools. Sometimes gear evolves, but really it's all just a bunch of different ways to do the same thing.

Q: What are some artists and albums who most fans might not know significantly impacted you as an artist?

A: I mean I usually end up talking about rap albums that influenced me because thats what people ask about. Rap was a lot smaller in those days, so you could conceivably consume most of it. Today there is just so much, so that's not much of an option. Beyond that though - I listened to a ton of punk and skate rock stuff. Dead Kennedys, Fugazi, Jawbreaker, Quicksand, that kind of stuff. I had a Dead Kennedys live VHS and Jello Biafra was just an insane front-man to discover as a kid. Blake Schwarzenbach of Jawbreaker was one of the early people whose lyric-writing really stood out to me in a way I found to be inspirational.

Q: You’ve worked with a variety of artists and producers, including Dub-L, Blockhead, Percee P, Rob Sonic, and Slug. Who is an artist or producer you haven’t yet collaborated with but would like to, and why?

A: Probably not the answer you're looking for, but I don't really have any desire to collaborate with many people at all. Really just my friends. I think I hit a point where when I heard something that I liked, I would much rather just sit back and be a fan of it. I think I used to think more in the way of "oh, I should try to do a song with this person," but that thought almost never crosses my mind anymore, unless it just happens out of a friendship.

Q: There are often discrepancies between artists and their work, and what fans or critics deem popular. Is there a song or album of yours that you are particularly fond of which you feel is underrated?

A: Ha. Not really. I mean, yea the songs that get bigger aren't always the ones I am most attached to, but that's just what it is. I prefer the darker, angrier songs - whereas some people prefer me over "prettier" sounding beats. I have a hard time even listening to anything that isn't my newest material, so by default Skelethon is the one I standby most. I have a particular affinity for Homemade Mummy, which I think people like but don't particularly find to be a standout.

Q: I’ve always felt album art is essential to the listening experience. “None Shall Pass” featured an enthralling cover by Jeremy Fish. “Bestiary” has a whopping 3 different covers. Do you feel album art significantly contributes to understanding music?

A: I don't know if it does, but I still like to try to get some fly shit together anyway. I went to art school once and I think nowadays, because I am a failed artist, I just like to befriend visual artists. Possibly nothing moves me like a nice drawing. I have been fortunate enough to have some amazing people work on these projects with me, and I always try to think about what these records "look" like when I'm writing them. At the same time - in 2015 you can pretty much get away with no art, and no packaging. I just happened to come up when packaging was part of the experience and so that is what I tap into when I'm trying to complete a project. I think that is where a lot of my true collaboration happens, because I have put myself 100% into the music and can then find someone who is excited about it and that I know will consider the visuals important.

Q: You’ve been heralded as the most eloquent rapper, and for good reason. What’s the last magazine or book you’ve read?

A: Lol at "most eloquent rapper". I just bought the new Juxtapoz but I haven't read it yet. I read the 2 most recent National Geographic magazines last week. If I have a long flight I buy all the most recent science magazines, so I have a few of them in my bag too, but I'm not sure which.

Q: If someone asked you for film recommendations, what suggestions would you give?

A: Recently I liked Birdman a lot. I liked John Wick. I liked the Hunger Games. I'm trying to think of what else I have seen recently. Oh, I just watched that Lego movie finally, which was fly. I watch more TV shows these days - Black Mirror, Game of Thrones. I'm re-watching Fringe because it's my comfort show. It's like meatloaf but it's TV.

Q: Who are some artists you are currently listening to, either hip hop or otherwise?

A: Homeboy Sandman, Vince Staples, Shirt, Michael Christmas, Ka. They have all been in rotation for the last year.

Q: On a personal note, I just wanted to say thank you very much for the interview and helping with my article. Really looking forward to the Cat’s Cradle gig!

A: Absolutely. Thank you!