Malibu Ken by Aesop Rock and TobaccoRelease date: January 18, 2019
Aesop Rock and Tobacco team up to create the most beautifully constructed rap record. It’s just over half an hour. You can flip it over and over.
Let’s talk about Tobacco. The production on this 34 minute batch of jams is timeless, it’s low key. It’s precise. There’s space. It drags at the wet eye making holes, the best can effortlessly do this. Old school analogue synths, tape play, popping and bouncing beats. There’s no single second blown. The record suckles from the synthscapes of Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, the melancholy of Lil Ugly Mane’s Mista Thug Isolation record and some sunny land us Northern Euro’s can only dream of.
Tobacco is part of the self styled Liquid Goth band Black Moth Super Rainbow, who’s 2018 album, Panic Blooms, spread over three sides of golden vinyl has stuck with me through this winter. It’s pressed for 45rpm. This winter has asked for 33rpm playbacks. Synth heavy, effect riddled vocal, melancholy. I’ve gone in deep. I sleep with headphones on, damp and cold and tired from work.
Aesop’s last album proper, The Impossible Kid (he has produced a soundtrack LP within recent times, Bushwick), only lent extra weight to the argument beginning to gain traction that he is the best in the game. He spins a yarn like an aged Cornish Fisherman, he holds the room like a 17th century poet. He graduated from the school of El-P’s Def Jux label, alongside Company Flow and Cannibal Ox. But while you sat on your laurels, throwing your morterboard in the air, your mum taking snaps, he was aiming for PHD levels of heavy with new label Rhymesayers Entertainment. His consistency should shame all. Vast dictionary knowledge matched with vocal clarity. All words are heard. No mumbles. Rhythmic perfection. It’s an appreciation for the art.
The decision for these two to get together has destroyed me. It’s so relaxed. When you watch snooker people doing snooker things and you think ‘looks well simple that, wind your necks in, gimme that cue’. Then you step up to the table and it’s almost 12 foot by almost 6. And you need binoculars to see the far end. And you realise that Dennis Taylor was wearing those insane looking top heavy glasses for this reason. And you realise that sport people have spent all their lives getting to 147 level. You’re left to hack at the baize with little style and less grace.
A grim realisation sweeps over: Owning Snooker Loopy on 7″ does not count as enough time spent on the training table. Aesop Rock and Tobacco have been putting the time in whilst you were listening to Messrs Hodges and Peacock. They make it look ‘well simple’. They’re knocking 147 in whilst you’re fighting a couple a table over who spilt your pint three frames back. It takes experience to not fill all the gaps. Years of learning.
Malibu Ken appears through the album, maybe an alter ego. I hope it’s fiction, for Aesop’s sake. He’s hiding under boardwalk, working through half an eighth. He likes “neighbours with wide orbits” (I love this, we have a neighbour we also never want to see). He’s in the mirror in the tune Corn Maze as our hero steps into a shower to wash off the puke and blood. The subject matter is personal (“I’m rich when I’m broke” – Dog Years), but also Monty Python/grotty (“My neighbour found a mushroom growing inside of my car” – Tuesday). He “does not open mail”. He “does not answer phones”. He sadly points out that “It’s weird knowing life thrives more when you exit”.
With Aesop’s distinct and beautifully laid out poetry (yes, poetry. Read it) riding on Tobacco’s production the duo, as Malibu Ken, have easily created 2019s benchmark rap record. I sit hear waiting for RTJ4. Killer Mike and El-P are arguably the only duo that can come close.