Life’s greatest mysteries are often too personal to the eye of the beholder. People throw prose out into the abyss that is our entropic world to find answers, however those questions too often come from imperfections or flaws within oneself. Whether you’re caught in a day dream looking through stacks of old photos detailing the life you wish you had as an old man, or owning up to the regret of ever unlatching a personal Pandora’s box, we all have issues we can not surpass.
Portland-based rapper Aesop Rock is best known for using his lyricism like a flamethrower, mowing down complex topics through metaphorical hooks left and right so sharp it makes artists like Kanye West look like amateurs. In his newest album, The Impossible Kid (4/29/2016 via Rhymesayers Entertainment), he takes bold steps in attempting introspection towards his past and his insecurities to what he could have been if it weren’t for his complacency.
Watch: “Rings” – Aesop Rock
Many of the songs on this album are heavy, and provide such personal context into his life it’s as if he’s allowing the listener to be his personal shrink. However, the track “Rings” provides more than a deep consideration of his affection for someone or a significant event in his life. This song provides context into one of his greatest failures as an adult, and how disappointed he is for allowing one of his previously well sought-after skills to crumble under the weight of time.
The song begins with a boisterous and hard-hitting drum and guitar riff, while simultaneously bouncing the lyrics “Whatchya gonna do” faintly in the background back and forth from left to right channel as if shoving the listener around with vocals. The track delves deep into how he used to create visual art, through specifying the way he created contours and his eye for detail. In retrospect, his living situation, coupled with the rabid stress from art school, is what forced his talent to crumble.
Then it’s off to a school where it’s all that you do
Being trained and observed by a capable few
Back in New York, five peeps and a dog
In a two-bedroom doing menial jobs
Plus, rhymin’ and stealin’ and being a clod
Distractions free to maraud
I left some years a deer in the light
I left some will to spirit away
I let my fears materialize
I let my skills deteriorate
Haunted by the thought of what I should have been continuing
A mission that was rooted in a 20-year affinity
In rickety condition with an ID crisis
Within the two verses which separate the track, he depicts his passions for both drawing and painting with ridged differences in technique and regrets. In the first verse, he transcribes his lackadaisical attitude towards something he loved to do, and how the skill deteriorated because of his lack of action. In the second verse, he ties in the anxiety and perfectionism he had toward his art which drove him to near insanity.
I left some seasons eager to fall
I left some work to bury alive
I let my means of being dissolve
I let my person curl up and die
Eating up his innards, an unfeasible anxiety
Has brutally committed to relinquishing his privacy
Aligning with the trials of the anti-Midas
Aesop’s entire album depicts himself as the impossible kid, where he is the human embodiment of the anti-Midas, meaning everything he touches turns into waste. His critical and objective analysis towards his art and personal being has made him one of the greatest rappers in the scene today, and “Rings” only stands to push this narrative forward in nuclear proportions.
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cover: Aesop Rock © Ben Colen