Review Summary: "In your 30s, you can kinda still pretend to be young, but there’s not much pretending at 40...so yeah, this is the sound of me sliding into 40."
Aesop Rock is quite the unique musician. In a genre that has been characterized as being predominantly political, as well as being associated with black culture, Rock doesn’t write his rap music about either of those things. He is a 40-year-old white man from New York named Ian. It seems like he doesn’t have a lot of conditions that are grouped alongside the culture of rap and hip-hop, other than being raised in New York perhaps. So what would Aesop Rock do with his music, given that his qualities separate him from the majority of other rappers?
Rock’s latest effort, The Impossible Kid, is an album that nearly everyone can relate to. While a lot of rap albums coming out these days feel like collaborative projects, with features on every track and the production handled by so many different people, he creates his music largely by himself. Rock produced all 15 tracks on this record. There are no other vocals on this album other than ones that come from him, and the samples ripped from vinyl that are sprinkled throughout the tracklist. Just before this album started to come together, Rock actually moved out of San Francisco to live in a barn in the woods, following the death of a friend. During a period of grief and sadness, The Impossible Kid was produced, and it is beautiful.
The album mixes together songs that can get a chuckle out of the listener with songs that can cause an existential crisis. An example of a song that might make you smile is ‘Kirby.’ It’s a three-minute-long song about a cat. This titular feline is doing all the things a normal household cat would do. Shredding earbuds, for example. The lyrics and the beat in this song provide a playful environment to describe a young, innocent pet. It takes a bittersweet turn at the end, however, when it’s revealed that this cat only came into Rock’s like after his psychiatrist (discussed at length in the previous song ‘Shrunk’) was at her wit’s end. After years of getting mental advice and taking medication and nothing seemed to help, the psychiatrist said “I don’t know, maybe get a kitten.”
Songs like ‘Kirby’ that are mostly harmless and inviting are juxtaposed with songs like ‘Lotta Years’ that can be quite scary. This song documents Rock's trip to a Baskin Robbins in the first verse, and a "juice place" in the second. He sees young people working behind the counter at each of these places. But he looks at the Baskin Robbins man and thinks that this 22-year-old guy serving him ice cream is already so much cooler than him. After that, he looks at the girl in the juice place and thinks "I bet you clone your pets and ride a hoverboard to work
". This song is heartbreaking, because Rock has spent nearly 40 years working to be who he is today, spending time around artists and other rappers, and he was beaten by a couple millennials. He realizes how out-of-touch he is with the rest of the world.
The Impossible Kid seems to have a central theme, and that is 'childhood'. Whether it's retelling stories about his brothers, or digging up the immaturity within us all, or even reflecting upon how much better he could've turned out if he just kept painting, he always talks being young. The joy and nostalgia involved with growing up. Some songs can get stale a bit quicker than others on this album, but the amount of work that Rock put into it really shines. Even though some pain and turmoil was necessary during the creation of this album, it manifests itself in some pretty amazing ways. 4/5