Song of the Day: Aesop Rock - Rings

Song of the Day
04/25/2016
Casey Dunau
photo by Ben Colen

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Rings” by Aesop Rock from his forthcoming album, The Incredible Kid, due April 29th on Rhymesayers Entertainment.

Aesop Rock - Rings (MP3)

Aesop Rock changed hip-hop whether you know it or not. As one of the marquee rappers on Definitive Jux, founded by El-P of Run the Jewels, and now Rhymesayers, he has laid claim to a booksmart style of lyricism that critics have singled out as one the most expansive of all time. In the process, his smart, bizarre, and often times eerie albums have laid much of the groundwork for a large portion of the indie hip-hop we know today. And while it may be too soon to wrap up Aesop Rock’s legacy with a neat little bow - an image the notoriously shadowy rapper would likely hate for aesthetics and pretention equally - an increase in wait time between solo albums over the last decade could inevitably lead to the perception this his career is winding down. On "Rings", at least, Aes seems acutely aware of onlookers notching his years as he raps in the refrain, “They will chop you down, just to count your rings, just to count your rings, just to count your rings.” The catch is, and with Aesop Rock there’s usually a catch, throughout the song he’s rapping about visual art rather than music - his passion for it, his extended absences from it, and ultimately his use for it as an outlet. How much of the song is literal as opposed to metaphor is predictably hard to say. What’s for sure is that with visually stunning lyrics, ink-stained pathos, and a contrast heavy beat, Aesop Rock still knows how to distill fine art from his music with the best of them.

You can watch Aesop Rock do just that when he plays Neumos on May 6th as part of a nationwide tour - that is, if you can manage to find tickets to this already sold out show. If you didn't snag a ticket in time or just can't get enough of the veteran rapper, head over to his website and Facebook page, and check out his dissecting video for "Rings" below:

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