#BandcampGold- Malibu Ken by Malibu Ken (Aesop Rock & Tobacco)
It is pretty unreal how the narrative around Aesop Rock has changed. When Bazooka Tooth was taking the underground by storm in 2003 the debate was heated. On one side the die-hards were unrelenting in their belief that NO ONE equals his mastery of the microphone and thesaurus. On the other side(where I was) how could this guy be the GOD MC if you can’t explain what these songs are about?! This Eraserhead music is full of energy and effort but I don’t know what it means at all. Even the hardest die-hards had to admit it was a problem that they got lost and it was an uphill battle to find your way to the point of it all.
The change has been monumental. Something happened in the five years between None Shall Pass and Skelethon. The latter was the first of his albums I listened to multiple times with no stress. Between Skelethon and the Lice trilogy he did with Homeboy Sandman he developed incredible old man game. He was funnier, more human, the metaphors were three dimensional instead of six dimensional. The Impossible Kid in 2016 was by far his most personal and my favorite album he’s ever made. At that point, I was on the phone with friends who had disliked AR for years talking about how good he is now; chatting it up with die-hard Bazooka Tooth kids and just nodding as they take a verbal victory lap.
Malibu Ken is exactly what January of 2019 needed. All the production is handled by Black Moth Super Rainbow also known as Tobacco. A lot of MC’s couldn’t hang over these very strange synth patterns, overwhelming sounds jump in and out all while AR finds his flow in it. You can call this Boom Bap because it has both of those but it is way weirder. The beginning and end of Sword Box is an avalanche of Synth conducted by the master. Acid King sounds like the soundtrack to a video game where everyone dies (which fits the subject matter).
My favorite lyrical achievement is Tuesday where the first line is “There’s something you should probably know before we go too far. My neighbor found a mushroom growing inside of my car.” Underground legends have to tour a disgusting percentage of their days which doesn’t leave them time for a real life. At one point he says “I would offer you a drink but I literally can’t.” At two minutes and twenty three seconds he goes H.A.M. on himself “I can’t even keep a cactus alive when I’m present. When I’m gone it’s a groundbreaking botanical epic. From desolate to Little Shop of Horrors in a second. It’s weird knowing life thrives more when you exit.” What fans don’t realize is that the boring life ish we balance takes skill and if you did achieve your dream, perform in other countries, do your art…you’d become terrible at that boring life ish you took for granted. Very few rappers are honest enough to approach this as a topic.
On top of this self-analysis on Suicide Big Gulp he still manages to brag about slapping planes out of the sky paying the rent in pennies. Other rappers in his age group have fallen so deeply into their patterns they’ve bored themselves into a slumber. What’s kept AR so vital is his need to do something different. Whether it’s collaborate with a new producer or fellow MC or get personal about mental health or be funny. It’s not that deep anymore. Dude hates being bored and fights it tooth and nail. Over time I think we all learned how to respect that.
Stream or purchase Malibu Ken below: