Aesop Rock

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Aesop Rock
Ian bavitz.jpg
Background information
Birth name Ian Matthias Bavitz
Born (1976-06-05) June 5, 1976 (age 38)
Syosset, New York, U.S.
Origin Northport, New York, U.S.
Genres Hip hop
Occupations Rapper, songwriter, musician, producer, visual artist, poet
Instruments Vocals, guitar,[1] synthesizer, keyboard, sequencer, MPC
Years active 1996–present
Labels Definitive Jux, Mush, Rhymesayers
Associated acts The Weathermen, Hail Mary Mallon, Blockhead, Doseone, El-P, Felt, Slug, Kimya Dawson, Two of Every Animal, The Orphanage, The Uncluded
Website www.aesoprock.com

Ian Matthias Bavitz (born June 5, 1976), better known by his stage name Aesop Rock, is an American hip hop recording artist and producer residing in San Francisco, California. 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 was signed to El-P's Definitive Jux label until it went on hiatus in 2010.[2] betterPropaganda ranked him at number 19 at the Top 100 Artists of the Decade.[3]

He is a member of the groups The Weathermen, Hail Mary Mallon (with Rob Sonic & DJ Big Wiz), The Uncluded (with Kimya Dawson)[4] and Two of Every Animal (with Cage).[5][6] 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."[7]

Biography[edit]

Early and personal life[edit]

Bavitz was born at Syosset Hospital in Syosset, New York and raised in Northport, Long Island, New York to his father Paul and mother Jameija.[8] Ian has two brothers: Chris (born 1975) and Graham (born 1977). Ian, along with his siblings, was raised Catholic but later on in his life became agnostic.[9] Bavitz attended Northport High School in 1990 and graduated in 1994. He married Allyson Baker, guitarist and vocalist of rock band Dirty Ghosts in 2005. They resided in San Francisco, California but have since divorced.[10] He has tattoos on each forearm. His left arm says the words "Must Not Sleep...", and the right says "...Must Warn Others", which are quotes inspired by the 1956 film 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 them in his song "Antisocial," in the line "Must not sleep; must warn others / I'll tourniquet your turbulence then trample on your stutters."

1994–1998: College[edit]

After graduating from high school, Bavitz attended Boston University in Massachusetts. He acquired his bachelor's in 1998.[11] This is where he met his future producer, Blockhead where he too was aspiring to be an MC until he first met Ian in 1994, the one year he attended Boston University. After hearing him freestyle, he decided to put his dreams of rapping aside and focused on producing instead.[12] Blockhead was involved with a crew in New York called The Overground that included Dub-L.[13]

Musical career[edit]

1985–1995: N.Y.C. underground music scene[edit]

As a youth, Ian and his family would usually commute to New York City. This had a great impact on him and the way he viewed the hip hop culture. Bavitz began rapping in the early 1990s. He cites Public Enemy, BDP, KMD, and Run DMC as early influences.[7] Bavitz also listened to rock acts such as Dead Kennedys, Fugazi, and Ministry; he was introduced to these groups by his older brother Chris.[14] Bavitz started to play instruments such as the piano and bass at an early age. He then eventually acquired a sampler.[15]

1996–1998: Early musical efforts[edit]

While attending college, Bavitz initially recorded and released two self-financed efforts, Music for Earthworms (1997), a full-length featuring underground artist Percee P on two tracks. Bavitz also released a music video to "Abandon All Hope", which was one of the tracks on the CD. The album sold over 300 copies,[14] largely from a grassroots internet-based promotion at his website AesopRock.com and then-popular web portal, MP3.Com.[16] It was a success. With the money he made from his previous release, he then released his Appleseed EP in 1999 which received critical acclaim in the underground hip hop circuit.[citation needed] Both of his early records were produced by long-time friend Blockhead, and underground producer Dub-L. He completed these albums while also working as a waiter.[citation needed]

1999–2001: Record label acquisition[edit]

After his breakthrough success in the underground hip hop and indie rap community, he was eventually noticed by the Mush label and obtained his first record deal in 1999, just a year after he graduated from college. 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. During this time, Aesop worked at a photography gallery.[17] In August 2001 tragedy struck when Bavitz had a nervous breakdown. The song "One of Four" on his Daylight EP documents his struggles.[18]

2001–2002: Labor Days and Daylight EP[edit]

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".[citation needed] Because of its popularity, Daylight was re-released in 2002 as a seven-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 in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4; it also was the first album in his catalog to break through the Billboard charts, peaking at number 15 at the United States Independent Charts.

Aesop Rock performing live

2003–2004: Bazooka Tooth[edit]

Labor Days was followed by Bazooka Tooth in 2003. For the first time, production was mostly handled by Rock 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. A remix of "No Jumper Cables" was featured on Tony Hawk's Underground 2, furthering Aesop's recognition. In 2004, He released Build Your Own Bazooka Tooth and created a contest in which you had to create a remix of an Aesop Rock song using the a cappellas and instrumentals.

2005–2006: Fast Cars EP and The Weathermen[edit]

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, Rock 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.

2007: Nike+iPod and None Shall Pass[edit]

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."[19]

All Day was followed in August of the same year by Bavitz's fifth full-length album, None Shall Pass released in 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.[20] None Shall Pass had positive reviews from critics and fans, applauding Aesop for his change in sound.[21]

2007–2011: Hiatus[edit]

In February 2010, El-P announced that the label would be put "on hiatus," aside from selling its catalog and merchandise. Bavitz has since been absent in terms of making any new albums or EPs, albeit being featured on other artist records and producing.

2008–present: Rhymesayers, HMM, Kimya Dawson, Skelethon[edit]

In 2009, Bavitz produced Felt's third album, Felt 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez.

April 20, 2011: it was announced that Rhymesayers Entertainment would release Hail Mary Mallon's debut album Are You Going To Eat That?. A music video for their first single off the album Smock was announced that same day.[22]

November 2011: Bavitz announced via Reddit that he is working on his next solo album, and has a majority of it complete.[23]

December 2011: Aesop Rock is also reportedly working on an album with anti-folk singer Kimya Dawson, famous for being one half of the group The Moldy Peaches.[24] The working title for the project is called Hokey Fright. The group has been named The Uncluded.[25]

January 17, 2012: it was reported that Aesop Rock finished recording his upcoming solo album Skelethon, and it is scheduled to be released July 10, 2012 through Rhymesayers Entertainment.[26]

April 10, 2012: the first official single from Aesop Rock's Rhymesayers debut album Skelethon, Zero Dark Thirty, was released on both SoundCloud and YouTube. As of April 20, 2012 the song had already received combined plays/views of 86,434.[27] Skelethon was released on July 10, 2012.

February 11, 2013: the first music video from The Uncluded is released on YouTube, and Hokey Fright is given a release date of May 7, 2013.[4] The album will consist of 16 tracks.[28] The video for their third single "Delicate Cycle" has a cameo of Lil Bub.[29]

2013: Tour[edit]

Aesop Rock toured the United States to promote Skelethon.[30] Also, he has been touring with Kimya Dawson and performing material as The Uncluded.[4] Along with playing a number of individual events, The Uncluded performed as part of a Rhymesayers lineup at Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin[31] On the Skelethon tour, a majority of his touring equipment was stolen, prompting Aesop to raise funds by releasing limited edition artwork. It was announced he will be performing on the first day of Coachella 2013.[32] Aesop Rock stated he is ten tracks into the next Hail Mary Mallon record, aiming for a late 2013 or early 2014 release.

Lyrics[edit]

Bavitz's lyrics are generally seen as being both complex and abstract while others dismiss them as verbose. His frequent use of homonyms exacerbates this. Critics state that the use of words can be so detailed that it becomes difficult to determine their originally intended meaning.[33] The lyrics are sometimes inspired by events which have occurred in Bavitz's personal life and are thus naturally prone to subjective interpretation by outsiders.[34][35]

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."[36]

In 2002 on the song "One of Four" (a hidden track on the Daylight EP) Aesop Rock explains:

"But I can tell you that I only write shit down when I believe it / so take this how you want but know I mean it."
— Aesop Rock, "One of Four" Daylight EP (2002)

In May 2014, a study by Matt Daniels found that Aesop Rock's vocabulary in his music surpassed 85 other major hip-hop and rap artists, as well as Shakespeare's works and Herman Melville's Moby Dick, being named the largest vocabulary in Hip Hop.[37]

Selected discography[edit]

Albums

EPs

Compilations

  • Build Your Own Bazooka Tooth (2003)
  • B-Sides & Rarities Vol. 1: 1999-2003 (2005)
  • B-Sides & Rarities Vol. 2: 2003-2006 (2006)
  • B-Sides & Rarities Vol. 3: 2006-2009 (2009)

Singles

Year Title Album
2001 "Coma" Labor Days
"Boombox"
2001 "Daylight" Labor Days & Daylight
2003 "Limelighters" Bazooka Tooth
"Freeze"
"Easy"
2004 "All in All" Def Jux Presents 3
2006 "Fishtales" non-album single
2007 "None Shall Pass" None Shall Pass
"Coffee"
2012 "Zero Dark Thirty" Skelethon
"ZZZ Top"
"Cycles to Gehenna"

Filmography[edit]

Year Film Role Notes
2002 Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 Performer: "Labor" Video game, Soundtrack only
2003 Sad Clown Bad Dub IV Himself – Credited as "Ian Bavitz" Video documentary with Atmosphere
2004 Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Performer: "No Jumper Cables" Video game, Soundtrack only
2005 Letter to the President Himself – Recording Artist Video documentary
The Warriors Himself Video game, Additional voices only
Tony Hawk's American Wasteland Featured In: "Put Your Quarter Up" Video game, Soundtrack only
MTVU Woodie Awards 2005 Himself TV Special, First award show appearance
2006 Hip Hop Street Credentials Himself Video documentary
2007 My Shot With... Himself Appears in "Bonnaroo" episode.
2008 Engine Room Judge Miscellaneous Crew
2009 Fight Night Round 4 Featured In: "The Baskervilles (Amplive Remix) with Tokyo Police Club, and Yak Ballz Video game, Soundtrack only
2010 Blacking Up: Hip-Hop's Remix of Race and Identity Himself Television documentary
Independent Lens Himself Episode 218

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Kimya Dawson – "Miami Advice" Feat. Aesop Rock and the Olympia Free Choir". SomeKindofAwesome.com. Retrieved November 2, 2011. 
  2. ^ Breihan, Tom. (February 3, 2010) Definitive Jux Goes On Hiatus". "Pitchfork. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  3. ^ Parker, Phillip Taylor. "Top 100 Artists of the Decade". betterPropaganda. Retrieved December 21, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c The Uncluded. Rhymesayers Entertainment, n.d. Web. 2 July 2013. <http://www.rhymesayers.com/theuncluded>.
  5. ^ "Rhymesayers: Hail Mary Mallon", rhymesayers.com
  6. ^ Two of every animal. FaceBook. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
  7. ^ a b Aesop Rock Interview with MVRemix Urban | US and Canadian Underground Hip Hop and Soul – exclusive interviews, reviews, articles. Mvremix.com. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  8. ^ "Aesop Rock – One of Four (Thank You)". SongMeanings.com. Retrieved December 21, 2011. 
  9. ^ Doe, John. "Aesop Rock: Laundry Days". Unknown (MVRemix.com). Retrieved February 14, 2011. 
  10. ^ Talking Dirty: An Interview with Allyson Baker
  11. ^ Retrieved February 24, 2011. Test.bu.edu. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  12. ^ Blockhead – iTunes Biography
  13. ^ Miller, Walt. "Love / Hate: Aesop Rock". Online Magazine (Splendid). Retrieved December 21, 2011. 
  14. ^ a b "Sieze the Moment! Interview – Part II". The Metabunker. Retrieved December 21, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Sieze the Moment! Interview". The Metabunker. Retrieved December 21, 2011. 
  16. ^ AesopRock.com. Retrieved on January 24, 2012.
  17. ^ Kaplunk, Sumo (August 15, 2000). "AES Interview". U.K. Hip-Hop (UKHH). Retrieved December 21, 2011. 
  18. ^ Werde, Bill. "Mr. Complex". URB (URB). Retrieved May 17, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Nike+ Aesop Rock: New "Original Run" Mix This Tuesday". Podophile.com. February 11, 2007. Archived from the original on 12 March 2007. Retrieved March 21, 2007. 
  20. ^ Aesop Rock Interview. Fecalface.com. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  21. ^ [1]. HipHopDX.com/ Retrieved July 14, 2012.
  22. ^ "Rhymesayers Ent. Presents "Hail Mary Mallon"". Rhymesayers.com. 
  23. ^ "I am Aesop Rock, [Ask Me Anything]". Reddit. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  24. ^ "@AesopRockWins". Twitter. Retrieved September 16, 2011. 
  25. ^ "Aesop Rock's Official Site". Ian Bavitz. Retrieved December 20, 2011. 
  26. ^ "Aesop Rock Preps New LP". Pitchfork. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Zero Dark Thirty". Aesop Rock. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  28. ^ "Aesop Rock and Kimya Dawson Form Band the Uncluded, Announce Album, Share Video". Pitchfork. Retrieved February 11, 2013. 
  29. ^ "The Uncluded - Delicate Cycle". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-05-20. 
  30. ^ "Aesop Rock Announces Final U.S. Dates of 2012 New York Music News". nymn.com. September 13, 2012. Retrieved September 23, 2012. 
  31. ^ "Rhymesayers Take over Summerfest 2013". Rhymesayers Entertainment. 2 July 2013. 
  32. ^ "Aesop Rock Tour". showscoop. Retrieved February 1, 2013. 
  33. ^ Pattison, Louis (August 1, 2007). "Aesop Rock's well-chosen words paint dense, fascinating pictures". BBC (BBC). Retrieved October 29, 2008. 
  34. ^ Kim, Edward (November 7, 2003). "Aesop Rock – Bazooka Tooth – Definitive Jux". Daily Nexus (dailynexus). Archived from the original on January 9, 2009. Retrieved November 30, 2011. 
  35. ^ Markstorm, Serena (2007). "Aesop Rock's well-chosen words paint dense, fascinating pictures". The Register-Guard (registerguard). Retrieved October 29, 2008. 
  36. ^ DiPalo, Joseph (September 2007). "Graffiti or Vermeer". Guernica (Guernica). Archived from the original on 5 December 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2008. 
  37. ^ http://rappers.mdaniels.com.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/
  38. ^ "A Major News Update from Blueprint". Blueprint. September 25, 2013. 

External links[edit]