AESOP ROCK with Mr. Lif , DJ Fakts One and 4th Pyramid at Funhaus (529 Queen West), Monday (October 20), 9 pm. $22.50. 416-760-3332. Rating: NNNNN
How does an iconoclastic luddite wind up being crowned an Internet cult MC? The New York MC Aesop Rock has received the title from many webheads, but it doesn't impress him much. "Knowing how much legwork I've done, I don't get it that people refer to me as an Internet MC. I'm selling tapes out of my car. I don't even have Internet! All I did was sell some CDs to a few online stores and suddenly I'm some kind of phenomenon.com.
"The Internet is for slandering people anonymously in the comfort of your bedroom space-house. It's hell work."
Aesop also doesn't sound too impressed when I tell him I've downloaded many of his songs from Audiogalaxy and then sent him an envelope full of Canadian Tire money as a sort of quid pro quo.
The Internet might be a shitty garbage dump, but Aesop's new album, Bazooka Tooth, is certainly not. It's quite a step forward. Aesop took over the majority of production from musical accomplice Blockhead. It fits perfectly within Def Jux CEO EL-P's style, although it's slightly less hard-edged.
This is important since thus far it hasn't been production that's put the man on the map. It's his unique flow and metaphor-laden, cryptically catchy lyrics that have seized the brains of people throughout the hemispheres. You might want to ask him to break down their meaning at his Funhaus show this Monday.
"When I do shows I'm definitely cordial if you come up to me, because a live show is the most immediate way to get in touch with the people who like you. But a lot of the time, one out of five people who approach me are over-analyzing things. I mean, I record the songs in my boxers; the albums are 60 minutes out of two years in my life. You feel bad when the kids look up to you."
Aesop really has no reason to feel bad about kids worshipping his goateed ass. He's an MC rapping the way he wants to on a respected label with guys who have deep roots in the world of hiphop but are also pushing the genre into the future.
He counts his mates on the Def Jux label as the most talented guys in the game, listing them as dudes he admires just as much as Jay-Z or Tom Waits.
"I used to look up to KRS and Chuck D. These are the people who made me want to start rapping. But over time it seems like all the leaders have disappeared, and all you really have are the people around you. These are the people who were friends with me before music, people I'm with every day. If I'm not on the road with them, I'm playing video games with guys like Mr. Lif. I'm part of a collective of kids who all sound different."
I decide to risk asking another irritating question about what it feels like to be a white MC playing hiphop to a predominantly white audience.
"I always brush that question aside, but if somebody brings up the point that when I'm 60, 70 years old, everybody in rap will be white - is that gonna be weird? Yeah, it's gonna be weird!
"The fact of the matter is that pretty much all good music was invented by black people, so anybody with an ounce of talent will probably be drawn to it. I'm not a young Skippy running around the ciphers trying to prove something any more. I have nothing to prove to anybody but myself."
Venturing into hiphop history, I ask about Aesop's take on Tupac Shakur.
"Rest in peace. I was never a fan and I doubt he would have fucking liked Bazooka Tooth. Biggie (Smalls) would have been much less of a hater." Stick that in your craw, Internet.