Recap: The Uncluded (Aesop Rock & Kimya Dawson) "Hokey Fright" Tour – Columbus, Ohio
I went and peeped the Uncluded at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio. The Uncluded is a project that teams Aesop Rock with Kimya Dawson. For those not familiar with Kimya Dawson; she is affiliated with New York’s anti-folk music scene from her work with the Moldy Peaches, and she also has released music out on Olympia DIY label K Records. For those that aren’t familiar with Aesop Rock; he is one of the greater figures to emerge from Def Jux-era of underground rap.
If you think about it: The indie rap boom of the early millennium is showing a viable influence. You have A$ap Rocky’s unconsciously Aesop Rock derivative name. The world’s current biggest hitmaker Macklemore’s Rakim is Slug. Odd Future’s love of Madvillian adds soul the the sometimes Marshall Mathers influence. I know Madvillian is MF Doom who is Zevlove X from KMD but I am not discussing who reared late 90’s Nuwaubian Hip Hop group Mass Influence at this moment. I am not even speaking on “Operation Doomsday”-era Doom. This isn’t to say Aesop, Atmosphere or Doom aren’t still popular. I am just pointing out their legacy in newer acts.
Anywho, The Uncluded just released an album called Hokey Fright on Rhymesayers Entertainment.
The Uncluded’s album deals with the experiences of death, coming of age, and community building within’ those themes without trying to give solution or moral to the parable. If you have ever jerked off and/or had sex in a punk house, and also had friends die you will probably relate. As for the ears, the Uncluded has Kimya Dawson adding a sing-songy melody to Aesop Rock’s dense but prescient rhymes.
When I got inside the Wexner Center there was a bald-man strumming the shit out his guitar while singing disgruntled musings that were seeped 80’s and 90’s leftist politics. Hammell was like a folk-punk version of George Carlin. He railed against racism, FOX News, and presented a pro-“slut” platform.The “I Love Sluts” song was a good example of adding humanity to politics. He wasn’t on like a GG Allin “Everyone Knows I’m Scumbag” tip, obviously. Hammell on Trial was basically saying he has sincere love for the outcasts. I am not a big folk-punk guy but Hammell on Trial was funny, and the root of his humorous charisma seemed to be mixture of anger and a lived life.
I later learned that Hammell on Trial is on Righteous Babe Records and is close with Ani Di Franco. Nowadays, most women I know are bumping Niki Minaj, and Fiona Apple so I was somewhat pleasantly amused that I was somewhere I never thought I would be again. I mean, you probably agreed to kill your television for various reasons at some point in your life.
The Uncluded took the stage after a brief intermission.The room was full and filled with primarily 14-19 year-old girls. It was announced prior to the show thru various social networks that Aesop Rock & Kimya would only be doing the Uncluded material. So there wasn’t anyone in his mid 30’s screaming play “Daylight while I smoke this blunt, Aes Rizzle.” You might be like that is lame. But it also means, Aesop Rock will continue have a tangible and diverse fan-base for at least the next half-decade. Aesop did once say, “Life is not a bitch. Life is a beautiful woman. You only call her bitch because she won’t let you get that pussy” on “Daylight” back in 2002.
With that said; I don’t think a market share or fanbase synergy was the goal of the Uncluded forming, though. Aesop Rock and Kimya met in 2007 after Aesop Rock wrote Kimya a letter saying he was a big fan of her music. I feel like the two had similar experiences that helped solidify this bond…..
As far as the stage set-up, Kimya anchored the center and sometimes played guitar. Aesop was to her right. A multi-instrumentalist to Kimya’s left named James Lynch added keyboards, ukelele, and random woodwinds. I normally would not ever advocate being anywhere near a ukelele is but there was a bigger moment at stake here.
The Uncluded entered performing “Earthquake” which is a song about a 3 year old that has lost his mom, and the gravity of that reality. It’s easy to be jaded when you hear folk guitars on a recording but live there was a sincerity to it all that was impossible to shut out. So when the Uncluded performed songs like that and “Delicate Cycle” you were pulled into the warmth. There was on and off discussions about death balanced with playfulness. Someone yelled “R.I.P. Michael Larsen” (Eyedea) from the crowd at some point early.
Kimya playing the center worked pretty well. It gave her the chance to tell jokes,and make banter.
Kimya’s centerpoint allowed Aesop to spit his lyrics with heartfelt intimacy not normally seen coupled with virtuosity. Aesop was able to lay what he was expressing nakedly out without the burden of also having to be David Lee Roth after doing something like detailing his friend’s mothers death and the consolation involved on the song “TV on 10”.
At some point a man brought Kimya flowers because she had gone to school in Columbus, Ohio. So this was a trip back down memory lane. After performing a good amount of songs off their Hokey Fright album including the old school skateboarding nostalgia inducing “Jambi Cafe” and “Alligator” which Kimya anounced was about masterbation they went into an incredibly somber , and personal song off Kimya album “Thunder Thighs” called “Walk Like Thunder”.
Kimya sat down to perform this song. In the first 7 minutes of the 8:13 minute sung about recovering from overdose, then being depressed after her friend Ammi dying too early and her friend Alex battle with cancer. The song was a heart wrencher as she emoted all these lines of loss and self-neglect. You had to just feel bad for the lady. The message was about getting stronger after a negative situation but still…
Aesop Rock kicked his verse from “Walk Like Thunder” that echoed Kimya’s grief and brought the tales lost of friendsincredibly close to home. Aesop’s verse starts with him discussing announcing the death of his close friend Camu Tao from the stage of Soundset 2008 in Minneapolis. Aesop Rock and Camu became close friends during the Def Jux days. Camu Tao is from Columbus, Ohio. The verse then goes on to speak visting Camu in the hospital two years prior and Camu’s eventual fate from the cancer being an elephant in the room..
This Hospital would be the James Cancer Center in Columbus.
The James Cancer Center is a 5 minute drive from where Aesop was performing.
Kimya Dawson ft. Aesop Rock “Thunder Thighs” borrowed from Rap Genius:
[Verse 4: Aesop RAnnotateock]
Even creeps as a habit predisposed
To systematically clinging together in the cold
Know the measure of a pack, it’s not a question of the whole
The individuals that bottleneck into the fold
On a March black Sabbath,
News from the ministry of make-believe that reach a tarmac in Minneapolis
Middle see, yesterday the cells inside his chest were growing baby teeth
Today a raven radiated vacancy
Wait-two years ago a friend of mine
Called me to redefine all enemy-kind
I’m at the hospital at twenty-four and no one knew the future
I’ll take it everybody knows the future
Antibodies hatching in a hella back with no room to maneuver
Like disappearing pills into the masticated fuchsia
I asked you how you feeling, you told me like a robot
I gave you a Nintendo, you gave yourself a mo-hawk
You let us wheel you down beneath the leaning tower of flow charts
To be around your beats without a beeping sound of bogart
And speak about whatever people speak about
When nobody’s acknowledging the obvious disease about to crowbar in,
Deplane slow, comatose of baggage
From King of Hearts to carrying for jackals
And never got to sing us all his own swan song right
Coincidentally the rebel in me walked like thunder
Walk like thunder
I knew Camu. I help organize a parade and a memorial wall the pays tribute to Camu Tao, DJ Przm, Daymon Dodson, and other fallen Ohio icons here in Columbus. So Aesop’s verse meant something to me.
(character by Andrew Kern)
So for Aesop Rock to kick this verse about visting his dying friend in the hospital in Columbus about a mile away from the hospital.. I knew it had to be on his mind. I mean, Aesop lives in San Francisco, and is from New York. He isn’t here that often.
Camu Tao was a pioneer in Columbus Hip Hop. He helped put our city on the map with his work with the MHz, S.A. Smash, the Weatherman as well as his solo material. You know earlier when I was discussing Aesop/Asap and Macklemore/Slug? Well, you can see Camu’s influence on the Mid-West Electro New Wave that Kid Cudi as well as the flamboyant rhyme styles of Danny Brown and Mr. MFN eXquire.
So this was a pretty powerful full circle musical moment. Honestly, I wondered where the show could go after getting this heavy.
The Uncluded ended the show on an light-hearted note with the upbeat “Titts- Up”. I have to say that after experiencing Aesop and Kimya’s live performance I had a completely deeper respect for their album “Hokey Fright”.
After the show, I hunted down Aesop Rock. I had met him a few times when he came to Columbus, including during his first non-East Coast performance back in 1999. So I figured I would let him know his performance was appreciated.