Malibu Ken - Malibu Ken

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Aesop Rock is a veteran of the underground and abstract hip-hop scene who needs little introduction. The Rhymseayers icon has made a name for himself with his dizzying, dense vocabulary and oblique subject matter. Not many rappers can rhyme “clean logic procreation” with “crooked spoke adjacent” with such apparent ease. With this latest project, he teams up with electronic weirdo Tobacco, a producer who has been crafting psychedelic and erratic compositions for over a decade.

Rock at times could be pigeonholed for someone who takes himself very seriously. A well-read and thoughtful MC, there is a level of intellectual weight to the majority of his music. On Malibu Ken, however, he seems to be having nothing but unhindered fun. The playful instrumentals from Tobacco help amplify Rock’s sense of humor. As foreshadowed by the cartoonish cover art, this album is downright hilarious. It’s nice to hear the two having such a good time.

The subject matter on this record can only be described as bizarre. On “Churro” Aesop lets his dark humor shine as he goes into vivid detail about two Philadelphia bald eagles who were captured on a webcam eating a cat. “Acid King” gives a detailed biography of Ricky Kasso, an acid fiend and avid heavy metal fan who murdered his best friend in New York in the mid-1980s.

The second to last track “1+1=13” features Aesop’s best hooks on the album. Tobacco provides a sweet, meditative instrumental while also adding his signature layered and distorted vocals on top of his partner’s rhymes. Lyrically, this standout song explores the world of superstitions and the supernatural. “My lucky sevens only ever make it up to six. Every three tries, Satan kind of wins.”

The production on Malibu Ken may not be for everyone. You won’t find any hard-hitting beats or abstract, jazzy instrumentals on this project. Instead, Tobacco offers up skittering, classic video game inspired backdrops. Props to the duo in doing something different, but the weightless sound of these tracks has a limited time to impress. This project’s unfortunate downfall is its lack of diversity. But with a total runtime of 34 minutes, it never truly overstays its welcome. Malibu Ken is an intriguing look at Aesop Rock and Tobacco’s lighter and more carefree tendencies.


Grade: B

Matt Marciniec