Aesop Rock has always been funny, though listeners could be forgiven for not noticing. Anybody who raps this often about cats doesn’t lack for self-awareness. But between the claustrophobic production, the miserablist worldview, his imposing delivery, and the sheer density of his wordplay, his music scans as dead-serious even when it drips with pitch-black humor. He’s funny, sure, but he’s a lot of other things first.
If he just needed the right producer to highlight that wit, he’s found a choice one in Tobacco, of the Pittsburgh synth-psych outfit Black Moth Super Rainbow. Aesop Rock and that band toured together over a decade ago, and Aesop guested on the producer’s nutty “Dirt” in 2008. Now they’ve released a full-length together as Malibu Ken, a madcap project that unmoors Aesop from expectations of high-mindedness. Tobacco previously produced the bass-addled “Silicon Valley” theme song, and, like that jingle, his Malibu Ken tracks radiate demented whimsy. For all its erratic shifts and kinks, his miswired electro-funk is purely pleasurable, a rarity in Aesop’s catalog.
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