Ian Matthias Bavitz (born June 5, 1976), who goes under the stage name Aesop Rock, is an American-born Alternative Hip Hop artist.
Aesop has been releasing music since 1997 when he released the self-financed Music for Earthworms. After another self-released album, he signed to Mush Records and released Float. Shortly after, he signed to El-P's Def Jux label, where he has since released a slew of successful albums, including his most well-known album, Labor Days. When Def Jux went on indefinite hiatus, Aesop transferred over to Rhymesayers, current home of such artists as Atmosphere, Brother Ali, and Rob Sonic.
If there's one thing Aesop is known for, it's his incredibly dense lyricism, regularly packed to the gills with absurdist metaphors, puns, imagery and references to pop culture and mythology all conveyed through complex internal rhymes. A study even declared that he has the single largest vocabulary in hip-hop with almost 8,000 unique words, surpassing 85 other major rappers as well as Moby-Dick and the works of Shakespeare. He has stated that he builds up his lexicon through reading news and science articles and writing down all the words he finds interesting.
In addition to his solo work, Aesop is a former member of underground hip hop supergroup The Weathermen he was one half of Hail Mary Mallon alongside Rob Sonic, and he has released albums with Kimya Dawson and Tobacco as The Uncluded and Malibu Ken respectively. As a producer, he's also well known for producing hip hop duo Felt's 3rd album Felt 3: A Tribute To Rosie Perez, as well as the soundtrack to the movie Bushwick. He also contributed three songs to the 2019 video game Freedom Finger which he released as an EP in 2020.
- Music for Earthworms (1997)
- Appleseed EP (1999)
- Float (2000)
- Labor Days (2001)
- Daylight EP (2002)
- Bazooka Tooth (2003)
- Fast Cars, Danger, Fire, & Knives EP (2005)
- None Shall Pass (2007)
- Are You Gonna Eat That? (with Rob Sonic as Hail Mary Mallon, 2011)
- Skelethon (2012)
- Hokey Fright (with Kimya Dawson as The Uncluded, 2013)
- Bestiary (with Rob Sonic as Hail Mary Mallon, 2014)
- The Impossible Kid (2016)
- Malibu Ken (With Tobacco as Malibu Ken, 2019)
- Freedom Finger: Music From The Game EP (2020)
- Spirit World Field Guide (2020)
- Garbology (with Blockhead, 2021)
Aesop and his music provide examples of the following tropes:
- Age-Progression Song:
- "No Regrets" off of Labor Days, follows the life of "Lucy", at ages 7, 37, and 87. Possibly inspired by a true story.
- The song "Lotta Years" off of The Impossible Kid follows his own disconnect with society as he grows older.
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Gets subverted in the lyrics to "Get Out Of The Car", off of The Impossible Kid:Knowin' ain't half the battle, that's a bullshit quip written by some asshole!
- As the Good Book Says...: Himself a former Catholic, Aesop has referenced the Bible in a few of his songs.
If Noah had the benefit of hindsight on his ship
- None Shall Pass' "Pigs":
He coulda snatched two unicorns and left behind the motherfuckin' pigs!
I turn a staff to a snake and back, evade crack
- Skelethon's "Tetra":
Shake a 5150 in shades and a fake stache!
One, two, undo a divine act,
- Spirit World Field Guide's "Fixed and Dilated":
They don't like it when I waltz in and turn wine back!
- Audience Participation Song:
- The Megamix at the end of the Deluxe Edition of None Shall Pass starts with a group of people chanting "AE-SOP, AE-SOP", it takes up a good minute of the song.
- Aes is quick to encourage audience participation at live shows.
- Badass Baritone: He has a very deep and distinctive voice.
- Badass Boast: Off of None Shall Pass' "None Shall Pass":Anyone object, come stand in my way, you can be my little Snake River Canyon today!
- Blasphemous Boast: "Kill the Messenger" features this line:I will not bow to a God that I can't look in the face!
- Continuity Nod:
- The aforementioned Megamix has clips and random sound bites from Labor Days and Bazooka Tooth, most notably, the first minute or so of the mix is made out of them completely.
- A good deal of his songs actually do this. A lot of them carry extra meaning if you listen for references to earlier songs.
- Additionally, Daylight's "Alchemy", featuring him and Blueprint, calls out his first album's hard-to-find status:Blueprint: So why they blaming you for the cats that sleep while the earth turns?
Aesop Rock: Yeah, I had 'em up all night prayin' I'd re-release Music For Earthworms!
- The End of the World as We Know It: "None Shall Pass" is about this, and it's mentioned in the earlier "Freeze" and a few other songs as well.
- Fading into the Next Song happens frequently throughout his albums.
- Food Songs Are Funny: Skelethon's "Grace" follows a young Aesop Rock adamantly refusing to eat his peas, and his father's attempts to get him to chow down.
- Fun with Acronyms: The second verse of Bazooka Tooth's "The Greatest Pac-Man Victory in History" takes this to a whole new level, for the whole thing is a sequence of words that begin with the letters L, S, and D, in that order.Late Show, Dave Letterman, shitty diner lip-slide dutch!
Low self-discipline leaders see dead lung self-destruct!
- Hikikomori: Discussed in "Teleprompters".
- Heroic Dog: The song "Ruby '81" is about a dog that saves the titular Ruby from drowning.
- I Have Many Names: Most are shootoffs of "Aesop Rock", Aes Rizzle, Aes Diesel, Aes Rock, Aes, the notable exception is Bazooka Tooth, who may or may not be a character he plays.
- Kind Hearted Cat Lover: Aes himself. He wrote the song "Kirby" about his cat.
- List Song: Float's "6B Panorama" lists off various New York City sights that Aesop sees from his apartment's fire escape.
- Lost Episode: The original "Night Train" cypher—one of the very first recordings Aesop ever showed up on—is considered lost for good. An edited version shows up on Music for Earthworms, itself difficult to find.
- Madness Mantra: MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARS WINS!
- Meaningful Name: Subverted he's not named after the philosopher (though he easily could be), his name is a character he played in an "art film" once, plus the suffix "Rock" because it's cool.
- Mind Screw: Usually subverted, but "Water" definitely counts, it seems to be a political message, but even keeping in mind Aes' usual metaphors, it doesn't make much sense. The sampling of some sort of opera only serves to make it worse.
- "Mars Attacks" could arguably be worse, the basic plotnote is pretty understandable after a few listens, but what it means, and what the second part are about is anyone's guess.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: "Float," which is just Aes's face in a corner over a black and red backdrop with the album's title near the middle
- Mook Horror Show: "Play Dead," off of the Freedom Finger: Music From The Game EP, comes off as this, narrating Aesop laying waste to scores of enemy spacecraft, as a player playing the game would.
- Mundane Made Awesome: "Fryerstarter" basically equates going to a donut shop (a specific one, San Francisco's Bob's Donuts) to a religious experience.
- Perspective Flip: "Nightlight" is a kind of an Evil Counterpart meets The Rashomon to "Daylight", featuring roughly the same lyrical structure but with every line changed to reverse it's meaning, usually for the Darker and Edgier.
Life's not a bitch, life is a beautiful woman
You only call her a bitch cause she wouldn't let you get that pussy!
Maybe she didn't feel y'all shared any similar interests,
Or maybe you're just an asshole who couldn't sweet talk the princess!
Life's not a bitch, life is a BEE-YOTCH
Who keeps the villagers circling the marketplace out searching for the G-spot!
Maybe she didn't feel y'all shared any similar interests!
Or maybe you're just an asshole! Or maybe I'm just an asshole!
- Performance Video: "No Jumper Cables"
- "Zero Dark Thirty" comes pretty close, but not quite.
- "Lotta Years" Doubles as this and a Concept Video showing the events of the song as they transpire.
- Sampling: Done fairly often on his tracks, it's usually inconspicuous and from obscure sources.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness is present in almost every line of every song. His vocabulary is incredibly wide, and a hallmark of his lyrical style is adding layers of meaning into his lyrics while obscuring said meaning through phrasing.
Ring around the king of pain, bring acetaminophen,
- A data science study showed that he has the largest vocabulary out of a sample of 150 hip hop artists. The study used the first 35,000 words of each artist, along with the first 35,000 words of Moby-Dick and works of William Shakespeare, and analyzed the unique words used. Aesop came out on top with a whopping 7,879 unique words, even beating Moby-Dick (6,022 unique words) and Shakespeare's works (5,170 unique words), as well as being a massive 555 words higher than even the second placed hip hop artist in the study, Busdriver. Here's just one example from Garbology's "Jazz Hands":
You either see the vision or dinner with demolition men, boom!
- Shaped Like Itself: "I twist characters like Twist characters," referring to San Francisco graffiti artist Twist.
- Shout-Out: Has its own page.
- Story Arc: There are a couple, most notably the saga of Bazooka Tooth, a bumbling lowlife.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: From The Impossible Kid's "Shrunk", a song about going to see a psychiatrist:She said "I'm not your enemy,"
I said "That sounds like something that my enemy would say instead of playing off the chemistry!"
- Take That! - Quite a few, but they're usually hidden among as many layers of metaphor as everything else, making it hard to tell just who it is that he's applying this trope to.
If you hate me you can eat a bag of dicks.
- "We're Famous" featuring El-P is one against rapper Esoteric.
- "Facemelter" is an epic bitchslap against people who have accused him of just spitting gibberish, it's capped off with one of the simplest lines of Aesop's entire career.
- "Shrunk" is a rather harsh take at psychological counselors and therapists.
- The last verse of "Gopher Guts" is a devastating Take That against himself.
- Word Salad Lyrics: His lyrics can come off as this to the uninitiated, due to Aesop's playfulness when it comes to prose and diction; if there's a more roundabout or extravagant way of saying something relatively simply, he'll go that route. However, he insists that his lyrics always have a meaning and that he's not just stringing together nonsense.