Remix Culture: Aesop Rock

28 01 2010

Throughout the course of my blogging, there’s one idea that I hope to hammer home as often as possible. That idea: being able to fiddle with other people’s art is fun. I support it. Furthermore, I support artists who present their material in such a way that encourages average joes to fiddle with it.

So, today we celebrate New York rap emcee Aesop Rock and his 2004 release Build Your Own Bazooka Tooth. Following the production of his fourth album, Bazooka Tooth, Aesop rock released BYOBT. BYOBT is a double album featuring one disc with the acapellas from Bazooka Tooth, and one disc with the instrumentals from the same album. BYOBT was released as part of a Aesop Rock remix competition, where bedroom artists were encouraged to create mash-ups of Aesop Rock songs.

There are three distinct reasons why releasing an album of acapellas is an awesome idea. First of all, you have to respect Aesop Rock’s dedication to the creativity of the average person. It’s fantastic that an artist of Aesop Rock’s caliber would open up his artistic creations to be freely altered by the masses. It also shows a lot of confidence in his medium. I would imagine that relinquishing creative control the way Aesop Rock has is an incredibly vulnerable feeling.

Secondly, releasing an album intended for remix seems like a great marketing ploy. Mash-up artists love few things more than a clean, studio-made acapella track. Any clean acapella track released on the internet will be remixed endlessly. It drastically increases the change of a casual web surfer running across an Aesop Rock track, albeit in a new and intriguing guise.  There are currently 2 billion mash-ups of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” on the internet. This isn’t solely because the internet loves Jay-Z (although they clearly do), but also because he had the foresight to release an acapella remix album. Because of that, I’m still running into new versions of a six-year-old Jay-Z track. Also, remixing creates a bond between the music and the DJ. Your relationship with a song changes after you spend a couple of days tweaking it in Adobe Audition.

Finally, Aesop Rock’s Build Your Own Bazooka Tooth is an awesome idea because it is an awesome album in-and-of itself. I personally prefer the acapella versions of many of Aesop Rock’s tracks. When stripped of his beat, Aesop Rock becomes more of a spoken-word poet, and does an infinitely better job of capturing the raw power of the genre.  Aesop Rock’s rhyme schemes and flow are so fluid and unpredictable that the beat seems to be holding him back during most songs, like the instrumentals are struggling to catch up. Aesop Rock is great in any context, but he’s at his best when he’s letting his acid rap stylings and lucid-dream lyrics wash over you unfettered by instrumental tracks.

I was unable to find any videos featuring actual BYOBT album cuts, but I found this fantastic live acappella performance of “Mars Attacks,” one of my favorite Aesop Rock tracks. While Aesop Rock’s delivery isn’t as dead-on as I’ve come to expect, he more than makes up for it by feeding off the attentive crowd. As you should come to expect from this blog, vaguely NSFW.

Bottom Line: I would trade Aesop Rock everything I own for him to come to my home and shout at me for an hour.




One response

28 01 2010

Nice an Aesop mention. More people definitely need to hear him. He has some great rhymes and an original flow.

Not to mention underground hip-hop is always 10x better than mainstream.

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