Aesop Rock, Bazooka Tooth

Aesop Rock, Bazooka Tooth (2003)

Bazooka Tooth is refined by intricately detailed imagery and segmented into titles like “Limelighters” (with Camp Lo) and “Super Fluke.” “Smoking on a broken blue note/Talking to an escape artist carcass/Lingering in the bulldozer,” Aesop suggests on the former. “Flash the Message” slinks along remembrances of LSD trails; and “11:35” and “Freeze” (the latter with Mr. Lif) talk up third-person stories about wayward kids, “punch drunks,” and murderous, overqualified TV anchor women. One-time collaborator, Blockhead, helps supply a brief moment of levity on “Cook It Up,” a tongue-in-cheek love letter from Aesop the “aggro pimp.” But most songs just watch, observe, and criticize the parade passing by; the net result, like so much non-commercial rap, is similar to being disembodied, as if you were watching you live your life. What happened to the rapper who bragged on Float’s “Commencement at the Obedience Academy” to “pluck the petals off a classic blood rose one at a time/Gripping the stem and right invite the thorns to dig up in my lifelines?” Bazooka Tooth’s limelighting escapades with the cool kids, fueled by Aesop’s own fledgling, if slightly awkward, production – think standard Definitive Jux-style electro-hop humanized by an organic Eighties funk-rock sensibility – overshadows the old motormouth cynicism and hopelessly idealistic reveries of his previous three albums. Notwithstanding his Anticon label’s longstanding rivalry with Definitive Jux, it’s difficult to envision moody sound artist Dose One finding the same common ground with this new, pumped-up MC that he once did on Float, even if the propensity for producing metaphor pile-ups and sardonic rejoinders is still very much in evidence here. Maybe Bazooka Tooth is just a good a put-on, a temporary role to capitalize on Aesop Rock’s underground superstardom as a “super fluke.” It radiates with a confidence fueled by acolytes, and one can’t help but want to join in on the fun. But what’s a career when all that’s left after fame is O.G. stories and manic depression disguised as aggression? Aesop Rock may always be more famous than his detractors, but keeping himself from becoming one of them is another matter. Guests include El-P, Party Fun Action Committee, and various Def Jukkies.

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