By Joe DeBonis
There is a generous amount of hype around Aesop Rock after that study came out saying he is essentially the best lyricist ever. He was always one of those rappers people knew about and enjoyed in their younger days, but the majority of my friends scoffed at me when I said I was going to go see him live at the Launchpad. For whatever reason, people hadn’t really kept up with him through the Uncluded days, the Hail Mary Malon days or even his latest solo project, Skelathon. I am not trying to say I am a religious fan, but I respect Aesop Rock as one of the finest rappers ever to grace the earth and when I heard he was coming I knew I had to witness his energy live at least once.
From the minute I walked into the Launchpad and heard Homeboy Sandman performing, I regretted nothing of the night. It is a rare feat to hear not one, but two rappers that are both lyrically talented and able to hype up a crowd that may or may not even know any of those lyrics. I find that at most rap shows I go to, either the bass is too loud and I can’t understand anything that is being said, or the beats are indistinguishable over the bass so I can’t even enjoy the production of the song. I never found that to be the case at this show, and the energy the opener Homeboy Sandman brought to the packed crowd was powerful enough to keep me engaged even if his style of rap is not really mine. He is one of the rare rappers that are more enjoyable to listen to live than in the comfort of a home. Rarely do I find myself entertained by an opener at a rap show, but Homeboy Sandman was speaking from the heart and had a lot of unfounded energy that I was able to connect with. There was a bit of a disturbance at the end of his set as he bragged about his new tape he was selling and then refused to answer heckles to throw some into the crowd. One drunk guy behind me started to boo and Homeboy Sandman flipped out and kind of put a damper on the set. He left on a high note with a bumping song, so I didn’t judge him too much though.
Then Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic busted onto the stage and I was immediately impressed with the charisma and the way they each fed off of one another. Both gave and took on each verse like they were born to perform together. The whole while Aesop Rock just kept making the best faces I have ever seen. He is a wacky, eccentric guy and I loved watching the way he contorted his face for each intricate rhyme he would throw down. Sound wise the show stayed true and I could hear every lyric. Best of all, DJ Abilities was live sampling each track and was also throwing in some scratching to make easily the best DJ set for a rapper I have ever seen. It was obviously a step above most other rap shows and hearing the intricacies in both the lyrics and beats was such a neat experience.
Everything about the show was just fun, the performers were top notch, the other members of the audience were good people, not trying to make other people’s lives miserable and I was able to get into the music without really knowing as much as I should. From the beginning I had a feeling just hearing Aesop in the flesh would be enough for me, but when everything just came together into a hyped, fun show with a lot more songs I recognized than I anticipated, I realized the true potential a rap show can have if the rappers are talented, good people who are fun to watch and listen to and if the DJ is even half as good as Abilities. I value being able to get into a show with or without knowledge of the songs before hand and this was a rare and great exception to what I normally experience at rap shows.
It helps that Aesop Rock is just such a compelling guy, and the thing that sticks out to me the most of the whole show was when he was doing a free style and some random girl in front was just screaming her head off to the point of annoyance each time he said a new line. He could have gotten mad, and he could have ignored her, but instead he laughed, made light of what could have been an incredibly obnoxious situation and kept right on entertaining his fans.