Rapper Aesop Rock (Ian Bavitz) knows words. Since the mid-90’s he has shaped his signature style, cramming verses full of words like luggage into overhead compartments, each sentence he spits stuffed with head-scratching vocab. Now on tour to support his second album as Hail Mary Mallon (Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic, and DJ Big Wiz), he aims to deliver his familiar brand of knotty nomenclature across the country.

However did he amass such an arsenal of words? The answer might surprise you. I caught up rap’s unofficial Poet Laureate to talk about his ever-expanding vocabulary, painting, and other completely random things.

Jon: You were cited last year as having the largest vocabulary in rap, and 2222 words ahead of Shakespeare’s plays. How do you account for this? How much do you read? What do you like to read?

Aesop Rock: I read a lot everyday but it’s mostly news and science articles, not really novels—which I always assume is what people mean when they ask. But really anytime I hear a word that sounds interesting I write it down because I enjoy learning about them. I’m not really “schooled” in writing and words, but have taken a personal interest in it over time.

Jon: What was your first word?

Aesop RockI have no idea.

Jon: According to the Global Language Monitor, there is a new word created in the English language every 98 minutes. Can you create and define a word for us?

Aesop Rock: Shadle: a bra for dogs.

Jon: How would you describe your music without using genre names?

Aesop RockI wouldn’t. I make rap music.

Jon: You studied painting at Boston University. Do you still paint? If so, what do you paint?

Aesop Rock: I don’t. It’s been a long time since I’ve kept up with that stuff in any legitimate fashion. I always tell myself I’ll ease back into it but who knows. In those days I painted mostly large portraits.

Jon: When you think of music in Boston, what or who do you think of?

Aesop RockMighty Mighty Bosstones.

Jon: Who are some artists you’ve never collaborated with but would like to some day?

Aesop RockI really don’t have any desire to collaborate with anyone outside of a couple friends. These days when I hear something I like, I’d rather just be a fan.

Jon: You’ve worked with Rob Sonic for a while now, most recently in your current group Hail Mary Mallon. What’s something people don’t know but should know about Rob Sonic?

Aesop RockOne time he told me to download a cellphone game called “Lines,” which I immediately became hooked on. I asked his high score and he said 600. I played that game for years and couldn’t get anywhere close to 600. I always asked him how he did it and he said it must’ve been some fluke on his first try, because he could no longer reach anywhere near 600 either. We both continued to play to no avail. Then one day many years later, out of the blue, he says “Yo, I never got 600 on Lines.” Fin.

Jon: You’re in the middle of a tour. In your 2007 interview with Pitchfork, you said you were an introvert and that you don’t like being around people too much. So what’s the key to giving a good performance every night in front of hundreds of fans?

Aesop RockI wouldn’t consider myself a good performer. I don’t like being on stage and I don’t feel good up there. I guess having done it so many times I’m sorta used to it, and I feel I can fake my way through it okay, but that’s about it. I do my best, but yeah…I’d usually rather be alone.

Jon: What’s the first thing you do after finishing a show?

Aesop RockJust clean up a little and head out to the merch table to say hello to people, sign some stuff, etc. Then hotel and attempt to sleep. I’m old.


Catch Aesop Rock with Rob Sonic as Hail Mary Mallon as well as DJ Abilities perform live this upcoming Tuesday, Feb. 17th at The Sinclair. Special guests Homeboy Sandman & DJ Sosa will also be in the house.

18+  //  $20 adv.  //  Doors 8pm

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