23 February, 2005@12:00 am
As perhaps one of underground hip-hop most revered new faces, Aesop Rock is an artist who purposely went against the grain, and in a rare occurrence, has seen strong success because of it. His vocabulary rich rhymes don’t always make sense, and as he has said in interviews, they aren’t always necessarily supposed to. One could suggest that the appeal of Aesop Rock has lied partly in affiliation, as he’s always run alongside star producer Blockhead, not to mention the Definitive Jux posse, however defeating this statement is the fact that he is still largely responsible for his crew’s success. The true appeal of Aes Rock lies in his personality, portrayed on wax as a condescending, pill-popping, millennial b-boy – and everyone loves a fucking asshole (as noted at the end of “Holy Smokes”).
With Fast Cars, Danger, Fire, and Knives, Aesop Rock uses the “year off” to bridge the gap between “Bazooka Tooth” and his next full-length release. This neatly packaged 7-song EP is like most “dessert discs”, in the fact that it holds the appetite a little longer between albums, even if the material is isn’t as good as the main course. But that’s not to say that Fast Cars isn’t satisfying, as it does have many savory moments. Both the title track, “Fast Cars” and the closer, “Food, Clothes, Medicine” work as opposite ends of the spectrum – the former suggesting what people expect out of a hip-hop record, the latter dedicated to Aesop’s only true desires. “Fast Cars” opens with a marching Blockhead beat meshed with turntable manipulated trumpets and heavy pianos, while Aesop delivers a critical beatdown to fair-weather fans in the song’s second verse. “Food Clothes Medicine” on the other hand is vintage Aesop, as he builds the song around these three essentials, over a self-produced, pornographic beat, ripe with sleazy guitar licks and appropriate female moaning. These two songs dictate the overall structure of the EP – some songs straight-forward with purpose, others random lyrical exercises for show-off sake.
Aesop fares best when wrestling with a topic he feels strongly about, such as on “Holy Smokes”, a scathing, yet understandable rant blasting the Catholic church due to the recent child-sex scandals. Aesop loses his religion as he laments “It ain’t the nifty faith of 1958 / before the new new testament approved alter boy fisting rape / take me to you leader / as long as he don’t manipulate toddler beaver / call me crazy, but I bet that wasn’t God’s demeanor.” Aesop feels also feels the passion of the troops on “Winners Take All”, a similarly frustration filled rant where he questions the motivations behind the Iraqi war: “I have landed safely / I have not received my papers / I have zero natural enemies / I don’t know my location / I have no training reconnaissance, combat or colluding / I’m calling for my orders, over / ‘strap on that helmet and start shooting!’”
However while the execution of said tracks is well, it becomes a little more evident that some of the others included here weren’t good enough to make the cut for a full-length album. While each “Number Nine”, “Zodiaccupuncture”, and the posse cut “Rickety Rackety” all present the standard Aesop Rock flare, they don’t shine as brightly as the others. Still, while longtime Aesop fans won’t be mad at any of them, both “Holy Smokes” and “Winners Take All” suggest that the concept-driven Aes Rock will make for a much more interesting full-length next time around.
While Fast Cars… doesn’t give the same amount of top-to-bottom satisfaction as say, Labor Days, nevertheless it’s definitely worth the price of admission. Mainly because of what an incredibly dope package it is, as it includes the 88-page lyric book, all wrapped together in a rustic heavy-duty brown o-card – surely something for the collectors.
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