How this album is so under the radar, I have no idea. If you listen to hip hop, you’ve likely heard of the underground emcee Aesop Rock. Whether you’ve heard his music or not, you likely haven’t encountered his first album, Music For Earthworms. But there is a good reason for this: it was only distributed on CD. That doesn’t exactly mean you can’t track down a copy, though it does mean you can’t find a (legal) digital download.
Like Aesop Rock’s later albums, Music For Earthworms, features repetitive beats with often complicated lyrics and rhyme scheme. While he uses minimalist, slow melodies, you still find yourself nodding your head to the beat. And you’re probably going to need the rewind button pretty often too. Sometimes it feels like Aesop grabbed a dictionary, a few novels and a dart board using them to randomly select his lyrics. In the first track, “Abandon All Hope,” he drops references to Boo Radley from To Kill A Mockingbird and Colonel Kurtz from Heart of Darkness. “So like sadly, my style spooks juveniles like Boo Radley/Radically weak assume the colonel Kurtz in our platoon soon enough” he spits. Aesop is one of the few rappers who can get away with this literary name dropping and not look like a joke. He is probably the only rapper, or musician period, who can use the word “amalgamates” without throwing off his flow. Personally, this is one of my favorite tracks off the album.
While most of the album is Aesop alone, there are two guest appearances by the underground rapper Percee P. His rapid fire flow on “Wake Up Call” and “Coward of the Year,” compliments Aesop’s lackadaisical, oozing style nicely. The two rappers later teamed up for a song off Percee P’s 2007 debut album “Perseverance.” Considering their chemistry on records, I hope the two keep working together and continue to collaborate.
Beats are largely minimalist, plodding soundscapes with superb sampling. Largely, Dub-L handles production with Aesop taking the reins for a few numbers. Blockhead lends his immense talents for “Plastic Soldiers.” There’s a sample of “Heavyweights” by Freestyle Fellowship, and later snippets from Mike Batts Zero Zero.
As one of my favorite hip hop albums, Music For Earthworms is definitely worth a listen. There’s not a bad track on the disc, and thanks to Aesop’s usual mind-bending metaphors and references it has an almost infinite replay value. Even Aesop quips on “Alchemy,” “Yeah, I had ’em up all night praying I’d re-release Music for Earthworms. If you can snag a copy, either legally or through other means (note: we here at Cup of Moe do not condone piracy), this is one of the most underappreciated albums of any genre.