With a nom de rock like Aesop, it shouldn't surprise that the San Francisco-based MC, born Ian Bavitz 38 years ago, is a gifted wordsmith.
In 2014, Matt Daniels, a New York-based designer, coder and data scientist, produced a hip-hop flow chart ranking individual rappers by the size of his or her vocabulary. He accomplished this by logging the number of unique words taken from the first 35,000 lyrics of 100 different artists. Leading the pack? Aesop Rock, coming in with 7,392 unique words (more than double the vocabulary of last-place finisher DMX, who logged a paltry word count of 3,214).
Rock’s ranking won’t shock anyone with even passing familiarity with the MC’s dictionary-dense catalog, which includes tracks like “Catacomb Kids” (off the 2007 album None Shall Pass), a twisting, elliptical tune as easy to get lost in as any underground burial site. But while the trend towards verbosity carried over into Bestiary, his 2014 Hail Mary Mallon collaboration with equally adroit rapper Rob Sonic (who also performs here), Rock definitely flashed a looser side on tracks like “Krill,” name dropping “Friday the 13th” mass murderer Jason Voorhees and threatening to “punt a … pop star into a trash fire,” a boast that doesn’t require a linguistics degree to decode.
Homeboy Sandman opens the show.
Photo courtesy of the artist