Photo: Kia McGinnis
In The Venue
Dopethought, Dark Time Sunshine, Edison, DJ Big Wiz, Rob Sonic
If Aesop Rock and Shakespeare could meet, they’d be homies. If the power were to go out, Aesop Rock could no doubt light any room of any size with his crazy eyes. If you didn’t buy a ticket to this show, that’s some shit.
Hip hop crowds are an entirely different beast than any other crowd. Draped in smells of marijuana and body odor, everyone shuffles along to the beat and raises one hand with steeze in the air if it’s especially great. There seems to be a sense of camaraderie that isn’t usually present in other genres, perhaps because people who know and love hip hop know what’s good. Unfortunately, I overshot my timing and missed out on local Dopethought’s opening act, which is a bummer, because it’s cool that a Salt Lake rapper got to represent. From what I hear, he layed out a worthy set, and I imagine that it was the best day of his young life to share a stage with such a legend. Following Dopethought was fairly new Rhymesayers duo Dark Time Sunshine, who have a laid-back flow and engaged the crowd by asking them to yell things back at them. Their sound is typical of their genre and didn’t strike me as memorable, but they built anticipation for Aesop and played a decent slew of songs. On a giant screen behind the stage, a live video of the audience was being played back to us, and some chick was smoking a joint and either didn’t notice or didn’t care that everyone could see. Can someone explain to me why middle-aged white men make the best rappers? Rhymesayers seems to be made up of almost 100% that. Next up was Edison, a glasses-wearing, hip looking dude who hails from San Francisco. He used a sound box with over 200 buttons that each make a different noise to compose his beats, which were inventive and a bit reminiscent of RJD2. It took him a long ass time to set up each song so he made excessive small talk in between. He asked Salt Lake if we have public transportation before he played a song about the bus rides in his hometown, and I heard people scream both yes and no. Suck it, U.T.A.—nobody’s going to write a sick beat about you ever.
Before the king himself took the stage, a team of intimidating bouncers pushed people around until there was a path for him to walk through. It was hot as balls in the room and bumping with fans. Finally, the trio—Aesop, DJ Big Wiz and Rob Sonic—appeared and everyone got their hands in the fucking air. Getting right to it with songs from the new album Skelethon (freshly released on July 10), Aesop and Rob strolled the stage, washing their rhymes over each other in ungodly sync. Aesop flashes his eyeballs to the audience unblinkingly while words drip like hip hop honey from his mouth. A few songs in, he said, “I wrote this about my childhood eating habits,” and played “Grace,” which all the hardcore fans in the audience knew the words to. Everything that comes from his mouth is some kind of phenomenon, and I couldn’t get over how rad it was to be in a room with his flow. Rob and Aesop must be cut from the same fabric, as they are able to cross their flows intuitively—and fiercely. Skelethon is constructed with morbid, darkly shaded raps that are enthralling as fuck, both in delivery and composition. DJ Big Wiz served as a backbone of beats to the trio onstage, remaining stationary but cranking out the goods. At one point, Aesop pulled out a list of potential volunteers to receive a haircut from Dark Time Sunshine and called one lucky girl’s name out. He mentioned that he was always grounded as a kid if he tried to do anything remotely weird to his hair, and said, “I know that all of you motherfuckers have looked in the mirror and thought, ‘I would look so good with a mohawk right now and didn’t go through with it.’” As he layed down a rap about it, the girl got (surprise) a mohawk haircut and was totally stoked. Later on, they called Edison up to the stage and had the crowd sing him Happy Birthday while he blew out candles on a cake. He made reference to “10,000 Deaths,” which was a tease since new songs were played the entire set until the last two, when he took requests for what the audience wanted to hear. He played an old-school one I wasn’t familiar with first, then appeased the crowd by busting out his popular hit, “Daylight.” About thirty seconds in, Aesop stopped everything, stared at one person in the audience and said, “Really, dude? In the middle of the last fucking song? Chill the fuck out!” It didn’t seem like much “chilling the fuck out” happened, though. Everyone was screaming along with the lyrics ("All I ever wanted to pick apart the day, put the pieces back together my way"), and had there been an encore, I’m sure more than a few people would have lost their shit. And could you blame them?
Salt Lake has been overflowing with premium shows all summer, but this was number one in my book. Aesop is truly a pioneer of his own style of rapping, and has been the main inspiration for artists such as Eyedea & Abilities and Atmosphere. Be sure to buy a copy of Skelethon and make it your new best friend, whether you got to see the show or not. Aesop’s words should be heard by all.