The long awaited feature length collaboration between two of hip hop's most unconventional MCs--Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic--has finally come to fruition in Hail Mary Mallon's debut effort, Are You Gonna' Eat That?, officially released by Rhymesayers Entertainment.
The project, both as a group and album, is a conceptual effort. Mary Mallon (also known as Typhoid Mary), is said to be the first person (on record) in the US to be identified as a healthy carrier of the typhoid virus. What's more, Mary Mallon was a cook by vocation, and depending upon who tells the story, you'll hear any number of casualties/infections which resulted from Ms. Mallon's unfortunate dedication to her profession. The obscurity of such a bizarre figure who, outside the minds of Aesop and Rob, would never intersect with the world of hip-hop, provides a perfect launching pad for this collaboration.
Aesop and Rob handle full responsibilities for the album's creation with the exception of one single accomplice, Dj Big Wiz (who establishes a subtle presence on the turntables). While the production of certain tracks are undeniably Rob Sonic ("Grubstake," "Plagues and Bacon," and "Breakdance Beach"), and others, clearly spawned on Aesop's laptop ("Church Pants" "Garfield," and "Smock"), the album as a whole, comes together in a seamlessly conjoined series of sporadic experimental sounds, arranged in distinct patterns to diverging rhythms, and of course, adorned with inventive, mind-bending lyrical imagery--all unparalleled in the genre.
Consistent with Sonic's and Aes' cryptic styles, the album's semantic content is illogically sequenced and shrouded in ambiguity.
As Sonic opens "Garfield,"
Diamond in the back // gun proof top // I inside metal mouth, kung fu chop! // One way ticket to a three dog night, when there's six million ways to make these dogs bit//...
Soon followed by Aesop,
"Staring contest--Go! // You win, I was never good at that // always shook his head of any hooks attached. // Spit that made him high for days // tractor trailer , slime and waste // catch you outside Kwik-E-Mart, the Mini-mall, or time and space."
However, while such incoherency may initially seem off-putting, what these abstruse musings fail to deliver in objective significance is repaid twofold in imaginative stimuli.
In terms of production, this prog-hip-hop effort maintains a deliberate balance between an eerie, otherworldly ambiance, e.g., "The Poconos," "Smock," and "Garfield," and evenly spaced intermissions of pneumatic, light-hearted--and at times comical--tracks like "Breakdance Beach," and "Holy Driver." And for the finale, Are You Gonna' Eat That? is appropriately consummated in the closing track "D-Up," a song decidedly reminiscent of past Sonic-Aesop collaborations like "Dark Heart News" (off Aesop's, None Shall Pass), and "Smoke If You Got'um" (off Rob's, Sabotage Gigante).
Ultimately, we're offered an adventurous project that, while remaining true to each artist's signature peculiarities, ventures outside their respective comfort zones in this dynamic group effort. SO, for all that, what exactly is the concept of the album?
Well . . . considering the fact that Mary Mallon was a cook who infected those she served, who refused to stop cooking and continued to serve food despite carrying a highly contagious virus, it seems to me that Aes and Rob have assumed Ms. Mallon's role as hip-hop's healthy carriers of a creative pathogen known to combat the stagnant status-quo of the genre. So no, they aren't spreading a deadly disease, but they are, with futuristic sounds and postmodern word play, spreading an infectious alternative to the degenerating world of what we call "hip-hop."
BUT, in all honestly--you're guess is as good as mine . . . so it seems you'll just have to listen for yourself.
Enjoy the ride!