Malibu Ken
Malibu Ken


4.0
excellent

Review

by Channing Freeman STAFF
January 18th, 2019 | 55 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A delightfully trippy and weird release that is nonetheless hampered by some predictability.

Aesop Rock has long languished in the sort of cult obscurity that can be worn like a badge, where he can reliably get a few hundred-thousand streams per song from dedicated fans, yet an album like Malibu Ken doesn’t get featured on Spotify’s New Releases section. Who knows what sort of black magic algorithms go into those decisions, but, regardless, it makes him a great match for Black Moth Super Rainbow’s psychedelic beat-maker Tobacco, whose group and solo work line up with Aes’s in popularity.

It was less clear how his flow would jive with Tobacco’s trippy beats. In Aesop’s own words, his beats are usually “part Def Jam, part Dischord,” but Malibu Ken stands as a great reminder that his flow is more chameleon-like than he gets credit for sometimes. Standout “Tuesday” finds him spitting like syrup, patiently enunciating each word while Tobacco’s keys swell and sway like simulated seasickness. Yet he can also engage in automatic-gunfire rapping in songs like “1+1=13” and “Save Our Ship”, hardly pausing to take a breath between his typically multisyllabic wordplay. Over the years, it has become much easier to pick out the individual words that he’s saying (the intro to “The Yes and the Y’all”, which I still barely understand, was a long time ago now), and that can only be a plus for one of hip-hop’s most astute and verbose lyricists.

Still, getting easier to understand doesn’t mean he’s easier to understand. It’s anyone’s guess why a cat – the symbol of Aes’s hard-won therapeutic breakthroughs on The Impossible Kid – is snatched up and carried away by an eagle in “Churro”. Or why teen murderer Ricky Kasso makes an appearance in his lyrics for the first time in 12 years in “Acid King”. After a brief mention in “Catacomb Kids” on None Shall Pass, Kasso gets a song-length tribute wherein Aes both revels in their shared history (same town, same school, same affinity for drugs and isolation) and laments the ultimate tragedy of Kasso’s life, offering some final advice for kids who, like them, feel as if they don’t fit in (“Hold close to the highs and the white lights/Hold close to the good you are drawn to”). The last time he engaged in this kind of straightforward storytelling was “Ruby ‘81”, but that song didn’t have anything to do with stab wounds and gouged-out eyeballs. It’s a dark trip to get to that hope at the end of “Acid King”, especially when accentuated by Tobacco’s menacing production, but when a rapper like Aes talks straight, it’s worth paying attention to.

When the last few tracks roll around, it becomes clear that Tobacco and Aes are sticking with the same formula for the album’s duration. Tobacco will gradually layer more variously-filtered keys, Aes will find something to chant for the chorus, and then some distorted vocals will close the track out. Two albums of this might get tiring, but for 34 minutes, it works perfectly despite the predictability. What is slightly disappointing about this release is that Aes’s last album, The Impossible Kid, was basically perfect, a sublime marriage of beats, lyrics, and flow made all the more thrilling by Aesop’s willingness to finally pull back the curtain to reveal his struggles with depression, therapy, prescriptions, and a deep self-loathing born from a lost desire to draw. There is a little bit of that here, but I can’t help missing it from a man who has twice written songs that perfectly describe my childhood: “Grace” and “Blood Sandwich”. But in these days of social media prevalence, luckily, we can satisfy these cravings elsewhere.

If you’ve seen Aesop’s Instagram page recently, you know he’s drawing again.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Kompys2000
January 18th 2019


2174 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Malibu Ken, AKA A E S T H E T I C Rock

Lord(e)Po)))ts
January 18th 2019


40977 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

aesop and tobacco? this will either be OK or fucking terrible

Digging: Amon Tobin - Fear In A Handful Of Dust

McTime50
January 18th 2019


829 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

hell yeah, good review channing!

Digging: Better Oblivion Community Center - Better Oblivion Community Center

SowingSeason
Moderator
January 18th 2019


29587 Comments


loving the instrumental backdrop to all these songs but jeez the rhythm of the rapper is terrible (I know nothing about any of the artists in this project so feel free to dismiss my take)

Digging: Copeland - Blushing

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
January 18th 2019


516 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This isn't the best introduction to Aesop Rock. I would suggest The Impossible Kid first.

McTime50
January 18th 2019


829 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

maybe it's because it had the most time to grow on me, but "Acid King" is still the best on here imo.

Dewinged
January 18th 2019


14482 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm a man of covers and goddamn I can't stand looking at this monstrosity. Is it Trump btw?



Good read tho Chan.

Digging: Chasms - The Mirage

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
January 18th 2019


516 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's a Ken doll I think

Kompys2000
January 18th 2019


2174 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Every now and then I think about that time Potsy said that Aesop Rock has only one flow

WatchItExplode
January 18th 2019


6356 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Sowing get on Cobra Juicy immediately.



Rock is tolerable here, but Chan is 100% in that there should not be Malibu Ken 2.

Dewinged
January 18th 2019


14482 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

'malibu KEN' Ok I'm dumb.



Might check it though, I kinda like BMSR.

Tyler.
January 18th 2019


16260 Comments


worst artwork of 2019 and its been like 2 and a half weeks

Lord(e)Po)))ts
January 18th 2019


40977 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5



Every now and then I think about that time Potsy said that Aesop Rock has only one flow





i don't recall saying that and im sure you are paraphrasing but i can easily elaborate so you can finally get some sleep over the matter:



aesop does bombast like a spastic colon and that's all he does.

McTime50
January 18th 2019


829 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

you should see the video. crazy stuff

Kompys2000
January 18th 2019


2174 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"aesop does bombast like a spastic colon and that's all he does."



Yeah I still pretty wholly disagree with you there but I can at least see how someone could think that. Ultimately it doesn't really bother me if his bars are word salad as long as it sounds cool, plenty of people don't like that though which is fine.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
January 18th 2019


516 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

they are much less word salad than they used to be

Kompys2000
January 18th 2019


2174 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah I think most of the tracks on Impossible Kid are fairly easy to follow, and even as far back as None Shall Pass a lot of his tracks at least have a clear central theme.

Dylan620
January 18th 2019


4581 Comments


Ken Trump

Morpha
January 18th 2019


26 Comments


This is still somehow better then the 13th beast

Lord(e)Po)))ts
January 18th 2019


40977 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

@kompy its not about being easy to follow it's just about sounding like a pompous chode



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