Underground hip-hop veteran Aesop Rock will grace Northampton with his presence this Saturday evening with a performance at Pearl Street Nightclub. With impeccable talent and a solid reputation, it’s amazing that more people still have not heard of this Los Angeles-based New York native.
Since the independent release of his debut LP “Music for Earthworms” in 1997, Aesop Rock has been at the forefront of the alternative rap scene. His first major breakthrough came in 2001 with the release of his LP “Labor Days,” which spawned a widely successful single called “Daylight.”
Sixteen years and 12 releases into his career, Aesop still knows how to give his fans what they want. His 2012 release “Skelethon” debuted at No. 21 on the Billboard 200, selling 14,000 copies in its first week.
Nowadays, Aesop is hard at work touring the United States to promote his latest studio effort. Combining complex word play with deep, often introspective poetry, Aesop is a lyrical force to be reckoned with. Examining a variety of modern topics, including everything from labor issues to organized religion, Aesop’s sharp wit and piercing criticisms are spellbinding.
In spite of his unique blend of styles and unorthodox approach to rap, Aesop’s music has never managed to capture the attention of any mainstream hip-hop fan base. Instead, Aesop’s loyal cult following is made up of an eclectic mix of music enthusiasts, with many of them being primarily indie-rock fans.
Critics of his music often call Aesop a “dictionary MC,” adding that it can be difficult to grasp his lyrical messages that so often dwell beneath layers of fast-paced, highly stylized verse. But in today’s musical landscape, with many seemingly illiterate wannabe-gangsters jamming the airwaves to sell the same brand of flashy, tired materialism, many listeners may find Aesop’s approach to music deliciously refreshing.
“I never have going into song-making with the assumption that anyone will like what I do,” Aesop said, attempting to explain what distinguishes him from the mainstream rap superstars. “I’m not aiming for some gigantic target, I’m kind of just making tunes as I go.”
The 36-year-old rapper is certainly no stranger to the art of live performance, although he said performing in front of an audience still gives him anxiety.
“While I spend a lot of time being nervous and fearing that I will somehow irreversibly f*** up, once I get out there I usually find myself thinking, ‘Oh yeah, I enjoy this,'” Aesop said of his performance-related anxieties.
While the king of underground rap may be self-conscious about his own abilities, one thing is clear: his devoted followers keep coming back.
“I am so thankful that people are into this stop,” Aesop said. “Seeing people fill a room to see my old ass hopping around on a stage is indescribable. I hope I can give them at least a slightly different experience than they get at home with the album on a stereo.”
The show, including opening acts Busdriver and DJ Jay Skee, will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are available in advance through the Northampton Box Office, or at the door.
Chris Trubac can be reached at [email protected]