|2016||The Impossible Kid||Aesop Rock||★★★||60||Hip-Hop|
The Impossible Kid is a fine album from a rapper who’s a holdout from an era of underground, electronic alternative New York-based hip hop that never really thrived or flourished into the mainstream. While most of Aesop Rock’s peers from the early 2000s have either long faded away — making the occasional cameo appearance here and there — or pivoted like El-P did with Run The Jewels, Aesop continues to chug along, perfecting his lyrical craft over the same sparse, sometimes in-your-face electronic production that was all the rage from 2000-2004.
Those beats are interesting — intense and intricate at times, but usually with a softer element of eerie, uneasiness to them. Mixed with his signature lyrics — which include long words and overly descriptive phrases with sometimes abstract meanings and personal reflections — he’s slowly gathered a following of loyal fans to appreciate his quirks, his experience and his showmanship.
The Impossible Kid is not Aesop at his freshest or most creative state (that would have been way back in the early 2000s), but it is him at his most mature, most meticulous and most pristine. Everything feels polished and accessible, but there’s nothing to indicate that he’s “Selling out,” because he’s not. The album does still have hints of the rawness of the underground scene, with a little less of the grime. Labor Days is my favorite of his albums, but this one does have a little more replay value I feel because of that cleaness.
For someone who, at the time of its release had been in the rap game for close to 20 years and had seen most of his friends fade into obscurity amongst the more popularized versions of hip-hop, it’s impressive he could still navigate the space well and put out a quality record.
Despite my appreciation for Aesop’s career and a lot of the consistency rappers in that underground New York scene provided in the early 2000s, I’m usually not blown away by any of their albums. Whether I’m listening to Aesop, El-P’s solo work, Cannibal Oxl… you name it, I usually come away thinking, “that was pretty cool, all the songs were fine” but not really wanting to revisit it, and that’s kind of the same here.
Some songs, like the opening two tracks, do stand out above the others, and some lines and stories are more memorable than others. But overall, it’s all more or less the same, overly complicated and one-tempoed delivery start to finish, and the lack of feature artists — who maybe could have spiced things up here or there — doesn’t do the almost 50-minute album any favors.