Aesop Rock has probably been one of our best rappers working and churning music out today. And now with both Skelethon and The Impossible Kid, he has become one of our best producers working today, introducing heavily industrial sound and outright math-rock-like time signatures to hip hop. Much has been made about his vocabulary, his heavily intricate lyricism and his amazing flow. But his musical compositions are just as delightfully driving and out of the world as his lyrics.
The Impossible Kid is that rare album that manages to break away from an artist’s general style while still being tangibly and uniquely his. Aes’ previous work was often outright cryptic at times. Not unlike Death Grips’ MC Ride, Aesop delighted in dropping hints about his life and articulating his own pain. There were occasions when he was willing to bare it out (One Of Four, which, should be pointed out, is a secret track) but once Skelethon arrived and Aesop was producing his own beats, something clicked and Aes decided to be outright open about his life as a depressed and reclusive rapper.
This isn’t music without a sense of humor. Aes opens up album highlight “Shrunk” with “my first name is a random set of numbers and letters and other alphanumerics that changes hourly forever” and then places that in the context of a conversation with a therapist. He also spits “The future is amazing, I feel so fucking old // I bet you clone your pets and ride a hoverboard to work” with just the right amount of insecurity and sardonicism. In general, it’s safe that when the album is not a trigger for self-reflexion, it’s a humor mine, just constantly working in hindsight, as you realize things like the shrink from “Shrunk” is the one who suggested Aes gets “Kirby” the cat (and the song)
All of this is in an album that’s delightfully honest, explaining everything from Aesop Rock’s disappointment with the rap scene (“Dorks”) to his disappointment in himself for being a failed visual artist (first single, “Rings”) Aes combines all of this with his particular love for metaphor and simile to encode meaning with ease. It’s all very goofy but rap-heads who understand the form’s true potential as a challenge to the language speaker to communicate in ways that don’t often seem natural will appreciate it.
This combination of communication and depression is also something Aes milks for all its worth in this and what I’d argue is a companion piece: Skelethon, his previous work. In both albums Aesop communicates his feelings and ideas in ways that are often too complicated to parse at first sight. As he jokingly confesses in Shrunk, this is because he’s being guarded. Which makes the title “The Impossible Kid” take on so many meanings. Aes confessed that it referred to his “endless and often impossible quest to just feel OK—with myself, with the world, with my place, with my life, my relationships, my art, my impact, if any.” But that he could take many different meanings from it. The meaning I took from it is this: It’s about the genuine paradox in understanding communication on technical levels and yet not being able to communicate yourself to others because you’re guarded or scared of people knowing who you really are.
Aesop takes a brave step here, an extension of his career as the rapper who often rapped about stories that symbolized his feelings about labor or the rap scene through characters or code. And that brave step is realizing that he’s the most interesting character in his life.