Aesop Rock (born Ian Matthias Bavitz on June 5, 1976) is an American hip hop artist and producer. He was at the forefront of the new wave of underground and alternative hip hop acts that emerged during the late 1990s and early 2000s. He is signed to El-P's Definitive Jux label and is a current member of The Weathermen. Regarding his name, he said: "I acquired the name Aesop from a movie I had acted in with some friends. It was my character's name and it sort of stuck. The rock part came later just from throwing it in rhymes."
A Northport, Long Island, New York-born MC, Aesop initially recorded and released two self-financed efforts, Music for Earthworms (1997), a full length featuring underground legend Percee P on two tracks, and the Appleseed EP (1999), while also working as a waiter. These two independent releases are widely sought after in the underground scene.
After moving to the Mush label, Aesop released his first major album, Float (2000), with guest appearances from Vast Aire, Slug, and Dose One. Production was split between Blockhead and Aesop himself, with one track by Omega One.
Shortly after releasing Float, Aesop Rock signed to Manhattan-based label Definitive Jux (commonly shortened to Def Jux), where he released Labor Days (2001), an album dedicated to the discussion of labor in American society and the concept of "wage slaves". This album was most well known for its single "Daylight." Because of its popularity, Daylight was re-released in 2002 as a 7-track EP, including an "alternative" new version of the song, "Night Light," whose paraphrased lyrics simultaneously refer back to, and stand in stark opposition to, the original's. The song "Labor" (from Labor Days) was featured on "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4", giving Aesop Rock more recognition.
Labor Days was followed by Bazooka Tooth in 2003. For the first time, production was mostly handled by Aesop himself, with three tracks from longtime collaborator Blockhead and one from close friend and Definitive Jux label CEO El-P. Guest appearances include Party Fun Action Committee, El-P, and Mr. Lif (all Definitive Jux labelmates) and Camp Lo. With this release Aesop hit a higher level of recognition, releasing "No Jumper Cables" as a single and music video, then another single, "Freeze", shortly after.
In February 2005, Aesop Rock released a new EP, Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives. The first pressing of the EP included an 88 page booklet with lyrics from every release from Float until this EP (the lyric booklet is titled The Living Human Curiosity Sideshow); later pressings of the album come without the booklet, but with an additional bonus track, "Facemelter". In addition, a limited number of albums were available direct from Def Jux with Aesop Rock's graffiti tag on them. In response to demands from his fans, Aesop did less production on the EP: three songs are produced by Blockhead, three produced by Aesop, and one by Rob Sonic. During this time he was asked to join the Weathermen to replace Vast Aire.
Aesop Rock was commissioned to create a 45-minute instrumental track for the Nike+iPod running system, entitled All Day. It was released in February 2007. Distributed via the iTunes Music Store and featuring his wife Allyson Baker on guitar and scratches from DJ Big Wiz, Aesop has described the release as "something that evolved enough that the sound was constantly fresh and attractive, as though the runner were moving through a set of differing cities or landscapes."
All Day was followed in August of the same year by Bavitz's fifth full-length album, None Shall Pass (2007). The album also contained original artwork by Jeremy Fish. About Jeremy Fish, Aesop Rock said: "Man that guy is my hero. We have a friend in common who hit me up a while back saying that this guy Jeremy Fish had an opportunity to pitch a cartoon to Disney and wanted me to be involved in the music side. I flipped out cuz I was also a fan of his, and owned some of his work." Aesop Rock also teamed up with Jeremy Fish again in a project called Ghosts of the Barbary Coast. Aesop Rock made a song called Tomorrow Morning, to go along with a slideshow of drawings that Jeremy Fish drew. This was displayed in San Francisco, but was also made available for download online.
In 2008, Aesop Rock was named the 19th most influential artist of the decade, according to betterPropaganda.
Bavitz grew up in Northport, New York and attended Northport High School. He married Allyson Baker, guitarist of San Francisco rock band Parchman Farm in 2005. They now reside in San Francisco, California. His move was a highly discussed topic in the Internet community, as he was well known for representing New York City in his work and his life.
He has tattoos on each forearm by Preston Chambers of Rebellion Tattoo, Denver CO. His left arm says the words "Must Not Sleep", and the right says "Must Warn Others," which are quotes from the classic 1956 sci-fi movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Aesop Rock has used these quotes as lyrics in the chorus of his song Commencement at the Obedience Academy: "Must not sleep; must warn others / Trust blocks creep where the dust storm hovers." He also used the them in his song "Antisocial," in the line "Must not sleep; must warn others / I'll tourniquet your turbulence then trample on your stutters."
The "Daylight" EP contains a hidden track at the end of the disk where Aesop discusses a period of severe depression. According to the song, "In August 2001 my seemingly splinter-proof brain bone scaffolding imploded. I kept it on the hush, but nearly tumbling to the cold hard concrete on near bodega trips for cigarettes and soda shook me to casper. Dizzy with a nausea chaser, motor sensory eraser agoraphobe tunnel vision, guilt, self loathing arrangements."... Simply put: "I don't know what happened, or what's still happening, but I literally feel like I'm teetering on the blunt edge of my sanity." The song is written in dedication to four people who helped him with his problem.
Bavitz is a graduate of Boston University where he studied painting.
Bavitz's lyrics are generally seen as complex and abstract. Critics state that the use of words can be so detailed that it becomes difficult to determine their originally intended meaning. The interpretation is highly subjective, because the messages conveyed are not always clearly defined. The lyrics are sometimes inspired by events which have occurred in Bavitz's personal life. Questioned about his lyrical style in an interview, Bavitz responded:
It’s probably because it’s not the most accessible music in the world. It may pose a slight challenge to the listener beyond your average pop song. I'm no genius by a long shot, but these songs are not nonsensical, that's pretty preposterous. I'd have to be a genius to pull this many nonsensical records over people's eyes. It's not exactly fast food but when people pretend I'm just spewing non-sequiturs and gibberish I can’t help but think they simply haven’t listened and are regurgitating some rumor they’ve heard about me. Even if it's not laid out in perfect sentences—is any rap?—you’d have to be an idiot to not at least grasp a few things from these songs. Or have had no interest in pulling anything from them in the first place.
- Interview with Aesop Rock in Guernica (guernicamag.com)
- Definitive Jux biography
- Mush biography
- "All Day, All Night" April 2008, Interview with Submerge Magazine
- Sept 2008 Interview with L.A. Record
- Aesop Rock at MySpace
- September 2008 Interview with L.A. Weekly
- Aesop Rock article September 2007
- Pitchfork article
- Know The Ledge interview with Aesop Rock
- Delarge interview
Biography from Wikipedia