So Strange Here: Aesop Rock & Homeboy Sandman’s Lice EP

Two of New York's best step into the arena bumping step into the arena.
By    November 30, 2015


Lice┬ástarts with a note from the school nurse about the perils of classroom infestation. Aesop Rock’s first word on the EP is “Paranoia.” The opening song is “Vertigo.” It’s somehow one of the more fun things that he and Homeboy Sandman have made in their careers.

Despite the overarching dread of what Joyce called “the foxtrotting fleas,” Sandman and Aesop alternate between bizarro fables, gallows humor, and veiled confessional. The tag team rapping brightens the mood — the sort of classic pass-the-mic levity often lost when solo artists combine.

“Vertigo” finds them cracking open pistachio’s, trying to avoid apathetic wallows, and contemplating death and bath salts — whichever one comes first. There’s an interpolation of “Top Billin” with “Top Ramen.” Guitars crunch and drums slap. It takes itself as seriously as you want to take it.

“Katz” finds Aesop opening each bar with “Cats” because he understands the Internet. There are breakbeats and Magic Mike mixtape references, but as much as it takes its original inspirations from pre-Giuliani NYC hip-hop, the path remains crooked. There’s only so far you can go from your roots and both metropolis-raised MCs pay tribute without painting by numbers. The slang is always tangled, the complaints always new. Remember to change your Brita filter, drink all your Ovaltine, learn about diplomacy, and never include Homeboy Sandman on group texts.

The best song on the five-song album might be the reunion between Aesop and Blockhead. A minimal rumbling bassline with what sound like twinkling handbells, then a somber jazz piano line. They call themselves speakers of an unknown dialect and if you like watching two great writers and rappers try to stretch the English language into oblivion, this is for you. Don’t count either out.

“So Strange Here” takes an ayahuasca-ceremony-in-the-clouds beat from Alex “Apex” Gale to find the duo contemplating the oddities of life, being far from death but acutely conscious of mortality, and how long ago adolescence seems. Aesop’s last verse is as straight-forwardly effective as you’ll find him:

“I’m not complaining though/that’s the way the daisy grow

hide away and make the best of what’s available

my older homies think I’m kinda sorta schizo

I feel the same to y’all but don’t consider it an issue”

He ends it with some of the best advice available to anyone left feeling misunderstood while trying to pursue a career in a creative field: “I know it sounds strange, but strange beats normal.” It might as well be a credo for the record — a weird curio full of brilliant language and left-field cadence — one that re-affirms why few (if any) are as excellent at creating codes that can’t be cracked.

Download the EP for free at Stones Throw

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