Going to an Aesop Rock concert in 2013 is like entering a time machine. It’s strange, because Aesop Rock was never a hip-hop traditionalist. Part of the forward-thinking Definitive Jux squad, Aesop’s cerebral, intricately intertwined lyrics, dense deliveries, and experimental production decisions have been a staple of underground hip-hop since the late ’90s. Thanks largely to the Internet, the underground hip-hop scene has changed over the years, but last night at Irving Plaza, it was alive and well.
Aesop took the stage with his friend and collaborator Rob Sonic, and throughout the night, the two indulged in what so many hip-hop shows these days are missing: good, clean fun. It wasn’t about looking cool or proving something to the audience. Instead, Aesop poked fun at his new mullet, performed while Busdriver shaved a lucky(?) fan’s head on stage, got the audience involved with several call-and-response installations, and stepped to the sideline while DJ Big Wiz built a beat and showed off his scratching skills. Irving Plaza didn’t allow backpacks in the venue, but if they did, about half of the audience would probably be wearing one.
10 years ago, popping in an Aesop Rock album felt like listening to the future. Last night, even though Aesop performed mostly new material, his concert felt more like revisiting the past.