Aesop Rock & TOBACCO are Malibu Ken

TOBACCO, otherwise known as Thomas Fec from electro-psych troupe Black Moth Super Rainbow, has not been visible on the international music scene in recent years. Citing a creative block as the reason for his dry spell, Fec’s musical mojo appears to have been reinvigorated on this collaboration with alt-rapper Aesop Rock. Not to be confused with fellow New York native Asap Rocky, Aesop Rock is an artist who has become renowned, amongst other things, for the sprawling body of vocabulary he inserts into his rhymes.

His verbosity is in full effect on ‘Corn Maze’; a stodgy electro-romp in which Aesop prophesizes class warfare stating “Someday we’ll find a way to make these billionaires obey us, someday we’ll earn a subdivision gaudier than reprobates, who sit around depressed and guess the order of the Tetris rain”. “A subdivision gaudier than reprobates”!? As contrived as it may sound, it’s hard to imagine even El-P, with his HG Wells obsession, or the poetical Rakim managing to crowbar that line into their cerebral cadences. Elsewhere, Aesop’s patent for cribbing ideas from science and nature documentaries is made evident. ‘Churro’ is a lament for the decimation of the Pittsburgh Bald Eagle population. A topic one can assume has never been tackled by a hip hop artist, or probably any musical artist before.

Throughout the album, TOBACCO underpins Aesop’s rhymes with insidious gloop-hop akin to Com Truise or early Neon Indian. Often recording straight to cassette, his lo-fi loops and squelching synth add a menacing edge to proceedings. In a hip-hop climate currently oversaturated with trap and vocoders, Malibu Ken is a welcome respite.

Stephen Lewin