Hip-Hop Fable

Discordant street poet Aesop Rock is on a mission to bring accessible underground hip-hop to the impressionable musical minds of Portland, a mission of utmost importance.

Discordant street poet Aesop Rock is on a mission to bring accessible underground hip-hop to the impressionable musical minds of Portland, a mission of utmost importance. Praised partially for his distinctive verbal delivery and partly for his laborious-but-fruitful beats, Aesop Rock brings an original, slightly unhinged way of looking at the world to his music. And you can see him tonight at the Wonder Ballroom.

Originally from the Big Apple, Aesop Rock has since relocated to the Bay Area, where he finds it easier to focus on his music. His latest album, None Shall Pass, is unadulterated, demented genius. Featuring a combination of self-produced tracks and collaborations with talented uber beat-maker Blockhead, None Shall Pass is some of Aesop’s best and most inspired work.

This week, The Vanguard caught up with Aesop Rock through e-mail, gathering his thoughts on drugs, giant squid and Halloween.

Tell me about yourself, how and where are you right now? I am in a van driving from Salt Lake City to Portland. I guess I’m on that state of mind that only comes when touring. Every day is kind of a blur, driving, performing, constantly on the move. It’s pretty exhausting.

How did you come up with the name Aesop Rock?A friend gave it to me years ago. Aesop was as the name of a character I played in a little movie for some school project of his and it just stuck. Then later, I added the “Rock.”

You relocated from New York to San Francisco last year, how are you getting adjusted to such a drastic change of scenery?It’s getting easier. I will eventually move back east, but there is a definite charm to the slower pace that San Francisco has to offer. I’m learning to bask in it, but it has taken time. I like that I can really lay low there. Just work.

You were recently in Portland playing at the Musicfest NW. How is playing live in the Northwest different from performing other places in the world?I’ve only had great experiences up there. From very early on in my touring days, Portland, Seattle, etc. have always shown a ton of support, and really know how to get loud at a show. I truly love rocking in the NW.

Do you usually come up with lyrics and then put them to music or the other way around?It’s different every time, which drives me insane. It’s never the same twice. I always take notes, but I usually need a piece of music in order to expand it. However, sometimes that is not the case at all, and I just write, knowing the type of music I’ll eventually need (tempo, vibe, etc.), then I’ll go make the music.

What’s the coolest place you’ve ever performed?New York City.

How did and you and Blockhead began your collaboration, and is he a part of your live show at all?We met in 1994 at college and have been very close friends ever since. He is not a part of my live show–his show revolves more around his instruments. We work extremely well together as friends, collaborators, and planners of the apocalypse.

Where were you and what were you doing at this time last year?Hmm. I was working on recording None Shall Pass at my studio and probably pulling my hair out.

What’s the best thing you’ve ever been for Halloween?It’s been years. I never really dressed up past my days as a toddler. My mom had 3 costumes, which my brothers and I would trade off each year. A clown, a hobo and an Indian chief, they were all equally embarrassing.

What type of work would you do if being a famous MC didn’t work out?I’d probably be lifting boxes or doing some sort of hammer-and-nail type gig. I’ll probably end up back at a job of that nature some day.

Do you have any good stories so far from your current tour?Shiiiiiit. I can barely remember where we were yesterday.

How did you feel about Radiohead giving their fans the option to pay any amount of money for their new CD, and how much faith do you have in the music industry as a whole?I thought it was interesting. I’d assume those guys are millionaires several times over, so they can afford to experiment with things of that nature in an age where putting out a record is no longer about following the same old blueprint. It’s a tough time. Nobody knows how to do it “right” anymore, and I applaud the experimentation. I’m interested to hear the long-term results. It’s bold, but bold is what’s necessary in 2007.

If you could be any kind of cephalopod (relative of the mollusk family, basically any kind of octopus, squid, or cuttlefish), what would you choose to be?Probably a giant squid, as they are very rarely seen, let alone caught alive. Elusive.

Do you write or record in an altered state?Is this a drug question? I smoke weed sometimes when writing. Sometimes record demos stoned. Final vocal takes are usually sober. I’ve never had alcohol.

Do you have last thoughts or words for the people of Portland?GOOD PEOPLE OF PORTLAND THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE ARE UPON US. GO WITH GOD. Uh…I mean come check out the show. Thanks.

Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic, Black Moth Super Rainbow, and BlockheadWonder BallroomThursday, Oct. 25 at 8 p.m.$17 advanceAll ages, 21+ full bar