Just over one year ago today, alternative hip-hop artist, songwriter, and producer Aesop Rock released his seventh studio album, titled “The Impossible Kid”. The record was written mostly in seclusion, covering such topics as mental health, artistic vision, and the passage of time. Although met with critical acclaim, the album hasn’t received the same sort of mainstream success as other artists that year–though, to be fair, 2016 was a fantastic year for music.
That being said, one must ask: how does The Impossible Kid hold up today?
While we won’t be going through a thorough track-by-track review of the record, we will be covering a few of the major points of interest with regards to the overall strengths and weaknesses of the album, as well as citing some notable tracks.
Thematically, Rock’s work is some of his best, feeling deeply personal and outstandingly relatable. Three overarching motifs exist within the work: art, aging, and mental health. While his ideas might not be relatable to everybody, they are consistent and certainly resonant. Tracks like Rings explicitly tell the story of Rock’s abandonment of the fine arts, and the bittersweet regret caused by such a loss. Lotta Years, while personally feeling a bit more heavy-handed than some of the other lyrically denser songs on the record, addresses Rock’s own aging and this sense of detachment from the contemporary world. And sprinkled throughout the album is this recurring reference to Rock’s mental health, both directly and indirectly. The track Shrunk tells this story of Rock seeking therapy, with each verse progressing through this bureaucratic process of finding help.
This brings us to the stylistic elements of this album. As mentioned previously, some lines stand out as being off every now and then, sometimes treading between corniness and a sort of self-assertion somewhat contradictory to the tone of the entire piece. However, something Rock excels at is this technique of rhythmic storytelling, where a song can establish a narrative through expertly crafted songwriting. Blood Sandwich and Get Out the Car are two beautiful examples of this, with audible progression from one state of being to another. And, each track cycles back to the motifs listed above. Aesop Rock also brings his patented lyricism to this record, often requiring an in-depth breakdown of each verse to find their truest meaning. And while this may be off-putting to some, for others it could be pure genius.
In sum, The Impossible Kid is still a delight to listen to a year after its release. Its thematic construction is solid, and its stylistic delivery is excellent. If you’re looking for a consistent, memorable alt. hip-hop piece to listen to, this album would be great for you.