Aesop Rock claims he smokes four packs of cigarettes a day. Logistically, this seems impossible--that equals 80 cigarettes in a 24-hour period, which would seemingly require him to smoke every second of the day, including, but not limited to such activities as: bathing, cooking, sleeping. Also, you would assume he has serious nic fits while performing.
"I just smoke onstage," he confirms.
For someone branded a sort of hiphop literary genius by most critics (admittedly, myself included), Aesop Rock is a really normal person--not the brainy word-slayer most people make him out to be. He would rather watch movies, play video games, and hang out with his friends than read books. That fans everywhere make him out to be a sort of wise prophet of the streets is something he's not particularly comfortable with. "El-P had a line about it: 'People think they know me cause they play me in their homes.' Granted [my lyrics are] very personal, and sometimes kids think they know your life. I kind of go into it on some funny shit, but I want kids to know I'm a klutz. [I want to say,] 'Don't make me your idol,' basically. 'Hey man, don't ask me for advice cause I don't know what the fuck I'm doing, either.' I like that people feel the music but it scares me that cats think I know something about life," he explains.
But it's easy to see why people would feel that way about him. He's certainly one of the most eloquent emcees to come around in a long time, putting words together like puzzle pieces and rhyming them in a thick, sharp voice that spatters conversationally and personally. His rhymes can sometimes seem like confessionals, and there's never any doubt that he's speaking straight from the heart. For instance, on "Daylight," from his latest record, Labor Days (Def Jux), he rhymes: "Wings span cast black of porn visuals hear the duck hunt ticker tape/ Vision and pick apart the pixels/ I got a friend of polar nature and it's all peace/ When I seek similar stars but can't sit at the same feast/ Metal Captain!/ This cat is asking if I've seen his little lost passion/ I told him: 'Yeah, but only when I pedaled past him.'"
It seems like Aesop Rock writes in his own language, and it's just vague enough that fans can infer their own meaning. But make no mistake--he writes for himself, first. "After that," he explains, "I want my friends to like them. After that I sell X amount of records; it's pretty impressive to me, cause I'm basically saying, 'Today, I had a bad day.' I write to get things off my chest."
"I think the songs are mostly from my point of view," he explains. "I usually go on some sarcastic rant about people that annoy me. I just write about that one motherfucker that annoyed me today at the store."
Aesop's music, produced by himself and his friend Blockhead, is full of warmly spliced beats, people with accents, string sections, and keyboards--all sampled from cheapass records he and Block find in the 99-cent bins. Considering the debate about whether production in mainstream hiphop is more innovative than in the underground, it seems significant that Aesop Rock listens to Jay-Z--every day. He explains, "I mostly listen to mainstream shit. It gets me more excited than anything else. I don't have time to search for the new, underground dope people, and honestly, I don't really care. Mainstream is in a better place than it's ever been."
"There's some pretty terrible shit that gets a fanbase," he admits. "But I try not to knock it, cause some kid is listening to me complain about my ex-girl on my record right now so whatever."