Concert preview: Aesop Rock takes a more personal turn on The Impossible Kid

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

Aesop Rock has a vocabulary that could put most linguistic majors to shame.

In 2014, online magazinePolygraph published a statistical analysis ranking rappers according to their vocabularies, and Rock easily landed at the head of the pack. OnSkelethon, from 2012, the MC utilized this elevated wordplay to craft dense, abstract lyrical webs perfect for aspiring code breakers (sample verse: "Tuck go the steel toe, metal gate spreading/ For the dead-alive that rented parking space 37").

OnThe Impossible Kid (Rhymesayers), which surfaced earlier this year, Rock mixes these more complex digressions with comparatively direct, autobiographical verses. "Blood Sandwich," for one, draws upon his relationship with his two brothers, recounting what Rock termed a couple "dumb stories from our youth" in a recent email interview.

"There are maybe a dozen [stories] that have been brought up consistently for years, and I thought if I could zero in on a couple it would not only highlight those stories, but that 'I got a million of 'em' type of attitude," said Rock, 39, who visits A&R Music Bar with Rob Sonic and DJ Zone for a concert on Wednesday, June 8.

According to Rock, this more forthright approach evolved naturally, informed in part by his age - "I think heading towards 40 certainly had me in a reflective place," he said - and in part by a desire to continually explore new lyrical directions after a quarter-century spent crafting rhymes.

"I've been forced to reexamine how I approach rap: what I get from it, how and why I do it, and what can I, as a 40-year-old, bring to the table that's exciting, new and worth it," said Rock, who turns 40 on June 5. "So I started to try to explore what else I can write about without losing myself, or my style and slang and flow and sensibilities. Can I write these story rhymes without sacrificing what makes an Aesop verse unique? Can I write about my doctor or my cat or my brothers and still be me? I SHOULD be able to at this point. I should be able to apply my skill to any idea, and find a song where I never thought there was one.

"The issue becomes, how do I make adult-rap and not embarrass myself or sound horrible? Can I take the 40-year-old perspective without just being the old man in the room?"

Aging can also force one to wrestle with mortality and loss, concepts that surface in songs like "Get in the Car," which Rock penned about his struggles to bounce back emotionally following the 2008 death of friend, rapper and Columbus native Camu Tao. "When you wake up eight years nonresponsive it's a lot to process," he rhymes. "Gone from a happier jack-in-the-box to a package of clogged up chakras."

"I think the song is acknowledging that I'm not coming to terms with [Tao's death] more than anything," he said."[It's] just saying, 'Hey, all this other shit went to shit since you died, and maybe it was all more connected than I could see at the time.' It's certainly been a decent amount of time since he died, but I dunno, I still think about him all the time."

A&R Music Bar

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 8

391 Neil Ave., Arena District

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