The initial video from Aesop Rock’s first solo album in four years finds Ian Bavitz flattened by a car and laid out on the operating table, fighting for his life. As always, it’s difficult not to interpret it as a metaphor for something inscrutable and highly personal — the sort of thing that could be related to his current career, a past slight, or an undercooked order at Hardee’s from when he was 16 and psychedelically charged.
The PTX-via-New York rapper remains the best at words since Samuel Johnson or at least Camuel Jackson. From what I can gather “Rings” is a tribute to his 20-year affinity for the fine arts, the decision to forego it to rap for money, and the guilt he’s forever processed since abandoning that first dream. As he’s wont to do, the language is cloaked in Kings and rings, enough to make this a legitimate candidate for the theme song of the next season of Games of Thrones. (Which member of Rhymesayers is a Dothraki? The answer might surprise you).
It’s a song that reminds me of a quote from the poet Gary Snyder. “Don’t be victimized by your lesser talents.” That’s not to say that Aesop couldn’t have been the next Pablo, but the odds are more likely that we’ve been the recipients of his greatest talent. It’s reductive and pointless to compare him to another late 30s artist on his 7th album, who also dropped out of art school, but for my own personal slant, I’ll always prioritize the one with the flawless facility for words. The colors are still pouring out the margins, the symbolism still murky, the questions still unanswerable, the rings forever slipping off.