While his Definitive Jux labelmate El-P is P.K. Dick-obsessed and fellow Caucasian rap-adours Buck 65 and Sage Francis delve into bloggish beatnik narratives, Aesop Rock seems like the last white indie rapper who just wants to kick a beat and bust a rhyme. The hook is that Rock is a fourth-dimensional writer who crafts better than he delivers his flows, which either amaze or annoy the hell out of you. Death metal has its barf-bag vocals; Rock's are more like a groggy dry-heave, like he's rapping while trying to hold in a bong hit. Which, given his wordplay — as an MC, Rock is somewhere between Thomas Pynchon, Divine Styler, and Butthole Surfers' Gibby Haynes — is something to behold, even if it is hard to pick up what he's laying down. He rhymes Cutty Sark, narc, and about ten other -arcs in one line on "Citronella," and the opening verse of "Catacomb Kids" is so dense — something about "chickens that looked like R. Crumb drawings" — it's a cornucopia of onomatopoeia that Venn-diagrams into logorrhea. But like MC Truman Capote once said of newbie Jack Kerouac: "That's not writing; that's typing." Rock's flow sounds as if he's trying to get all the words he's scribbled in the margin of his journal out in an open-mic poetry reading before his time is up. Beatwise, though, things are dope. The title track is a bouncy little house beat that's abstract and melodic enough to support Rock's double-time rhymes instead of fighting them; on "Five Fingers," he is as much Slick Rick as he is Eminem. But it's on tracks like "Dark Heart News," on which guest MCs and a jauntier beat lighten things up, that Rock stops trying to fit ten pounds of shit into a five-pound bag and lets the hip finally hop.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.