Hail Mary Mallon: Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic with DJ Big Wiz

Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic release second album Bestiary, with DJ Big Wiz 

by Jared Curtis

The story of Aesop Rock’s rise to glory has been told many times. One of the kings of underground hip-hop, Rock rose to glory along with his label, Def Jux, in the early 2000’s, as Def Jux became the center of all things cool in hip-hop. He released numerous albums and Ep’s for the label, including the instant classic, Bazooka Tooth, in 2003. But in 2010, Def Jux went on hiatus and Rock had to find a new home, which is how he ended up with another established hip-hop label — Rhymesayers Entertainment. hail mary web

“My life is just very different than it was when Jux was popping off hard. I had a lot of people around me in those days, the label was young, the crew was strong and we were all just psyched and together. After all that ended, I wasn’t really looking for that anymore. I was kinda wrapped up in my head, just making songs with no label,” Rock said during our interview. “When I was ready to figure out a plan I didn’t really need a label that felt like a posse for me. Rhymesayers are old friends, and are in many ways a crew in their own right, but I’m not as in the mix with them as I was with Jux. These days I try to just worry about the music part.”

Although Rock made the transition, it was tough to leave all of his history with Def Jux behind him.

“I was definitely just kinda over all of it for a bit, didn’t think I’d find a label and didn’t really care anyway,” he said. “I was writing songs, but I just wasn’t thinking about my future in releasing music. Eventually, I had most of an album sketched out and I needed to move on.”

And move on he did. Rock released his sixth studio album, Skelethon, in 2012 and hasn’t looked back since, filling his time with various projects like Hail Mary Mallon, his collaboration with Rob Sonic. The duo recently released their second album, Bestiary, and will roll through the Wild Buffalo on Friday, Jan. 23, as part of their three-month tour.

“We both just kinda rapped in New York and had friends in common. Once we were on the same label we would see each other out at events more often and just chopped it up a bunch, became pretty close. In those days I was touring with Mr. Lif a lot. When Lif and I decided to tour separately I asked Rob to come with me and that was about it,” Rock said. “We toured together for a lot of years before making the first Hail Mary Mallon record. It was just something we always talked about doing, but sometimes those are the projects you never bother starting because they seem like they’ll always just be right there. So after a while we finally said lets just start this thing already.”

Spending so much time working together prior to the project has landed Rock and Sonic on the same page more often than not.

“At this point me and Rob are pretty smooth,” he said. “We don’t live in the same town but we’ve spent a million hours together. It’s just kinda clockwork, and a whole lot of laughing.”

Recording Bestiary was different than recording their first album, Are You Gonna Eat That?, as the duo were not always in the same place at the same time.

“It was different because we were in different apartments and studios and such, but yea essentially just a lot of back and forth over phone and email, a million demos mapping things out and re-writing and tightening ideas up,” Rock said. “Then we’d get together for a couple weeks at a time and record real vocals, flesh out the beats, etc. Then Wiz recorded cuts at the end.”

The album has only been out for a short while, but the word is good.

“The reviews have been mostly positive but it’s hard to say because I can never gauge it. I thought the first record was received relatively well, but now everything I see talks about what a scattered piece of shit it was, so what do I know,” he laughed.

Expect plenty of Hail Mary Mallon tunes during their stop at Wild Buffalo, as well as a bevy of Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic solo tunes.

“It’s gonna be songs off the new record as well as solo stuff from Rob and I’s catalogs. But having new stuff to perform is always the most fun,” Rock said. “We have a set list that can morph a little over a tour, but we tend to follow it pretty closely. It’s just something we work out in rehearsal. Pick the new ones we want to do, then pick which solo ones go over best, take some out if we’ve been doing them too much, put in a some we haven’t played in a long time.”

Although Rock is “always working on solo material,” he is currently enjoying his time working with the various collaborations he has created.

“I’m always working away on songs, but I’d also like to keep the collaborations I have going like Hail Mary Mallon and The Uncluded (which features Kimya Dawson of the Moldy Peaches),” he said. “It’s weird how much emphasis gets put on the idea of the one-off collaboration, artists just coming together for one song.  I’ve done it before, but I just don’t feel it that much lately. I like being able to collaborate for a full album, so you can really try to find something there.”

Speaking of off the wall collaborations, Rock has also been working on creating vinyl art toys and recently released a piece with Kid Robot entitled “Whiskers The Dead,” which is based on Rock’s work on “Skelethon.”

“I had never designed anything like that at all. The homie Galen McKamy who is the former head of some thing at Kid Robot (he’s since left) reached out about doing a toy together and I was psyched because it’s not really an opportunity that everyone gets,” he said. “I kicked him the idea of Whiskers and it was on from the jump. The process took a really long time, so to see it finally here makes me really happy.”

Also making Rock happy, rocking a show with his partner in crime, Rob Sonic, and unleashing havoc when Hail Mary Mallon rolls through town.

“I would tell fans to expect total mayhem, on par with a monster truck rally or hot dog-eating contest,” he said.

For more information, see http://rhymesayers.com/hailmarymallon.

Published in the January 2015 issue of What’s Up! Magazine