Aesop Rock Slays in Chicago


I usually wear a blank, black baseball cap wherever I go. It serves a few purposes; it allows me to avoid eye contact with people so I can focus, it convinces people I’m out for their children, and it enhances my narc image. At the Metro in Chicago to see Aesop Rock, however, I used it only for throwing on the ground and yelling “holy fuck” during Aesop Rock’s performance. What Ace and his crew did wasn’t just another rap show, this was Hip-hop at it’s finest.

The stage got real fucking spooky.

Fans were packed in the Metro to see Ace, and the show started around 9-9:30 PM opening with Homeboy Sandman from Rhymesayers Entertainment and DJ Sosa. As a tag team, they were fantastic openers with Sandman dropping solid bars while DJ Sosa killed the production. They were crowd pleasers, arguably the most important part of opening; an opener needs this to keep a crowd lively until the headlining act.  They knew how to make a show work.  It goes without saying that the energy did deteriorate after a while from the crowd and from Sandman, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t entertaining.

“Rings” is when we realized that we weren’t just at any normal rap show.

After a lively set from DJ Sosa and Homeboy Sandman, the stage got real fucking spooky. It already had props to push the forest vibe, sure, but with prop trees and stiff deer and wolves to accompany on stage, I had no idea that we were still in the Metro. Extra sets of lighting added to the ominous and foggy scene that was already set for us with a terrifying, dreadful, fake campfire ablaze in the center.

After the stage was set to leave fans truly immersed in the environment, we started hearing the faint hums of “Mystery Fish” fill the air. Ace, DJ Zone, and Rob Sonic stormed out from behind the stage to kill the first track from The Impossible Kid. Just like hearing the first fifteen seconds of any new song, the first three songs of any show give a good indication as to how the rest of the night will go; the first three at the Metro killed, showing savvy performing, and an understanding of their dedicated fans that only comes from experience.

At first, I was apprehensive about whether or not Aesop Rock would be as articulate live as he is in the studio: I was blown away. He kept to it, and with crowd interaction included he made sure he kept everything accurate and lively. Rob Sonic was on the stage hyping the venue up and added to the energy that was shared throughout the live retelling of The Impossible Kid. 

“Rings” is when we realized that we weren’t just at any normal rap show. DJ Zone started scratching during the hooks and any head knows that scratching is a fucking difficult and sacred sector to practice. Zone’s skills only showed further when time permitted. During “Lotta Years” and “None Shall Pass,” his technical prowess shined and if anything, it’s arguable that he stole the show.

The whole night was entertaining throughout. Crowd interaction was spattered here and there, with key highlights of Ace having the crowd repeat the chorus from “Kirby” and “None Shall Pass,” a definite high note and crowd pleaser to tie all the ends together. I’ve seen many shows at the Metro, not all of them being hip-hop and the vibes are understandably different when it comes to each genre. There weren’t any drawbacks to the show whatsoever but if there needs to be cherrypicking it’d be about the fans. Moshing is a common occurrence for Rock, Screamo, Metal, and for some idiocratic reason, EDM/Dubstep/Whatever-the-snake people are listening to these days. For maybe thirty seconds of the show, my friend pointed out what he saw as a massive fight/mosh session happening on the ground floor. I’d call it a fight because that’s pretty damn weird for a Hip-hop show. Don’t get me wrong, moshing is a lot of fun when time permits but Hip-hop gets head-nods and hand-waving, not hurricanes of motherfuckers trying to helicopter everything in sight. Fans also seemed unappreciative of the scratching that DJ Zone did. Tables are tricky and to seamlessly scratch in the midst of a working beat requires timing unprecedented.

If Ace ever plays in your city, go. He and his mates give nothing but love for the art and the city that they’re in. If you truly love Hip-hop, you’ll truly encompass most of what Hip-hop is during one of his shows.

To listen to Aesop Rock’s The Impossible Kid, listen to it on Spotify below. For more on Hip-hop and concert reviews like this one, keep reading on at Truetoo.

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