Not averse to elaborately complex and absurd themes, MC/producers Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic named their collaboration with DJ Big Wiz after Mary Mallon, an American woman quarantined for almost 30 years in the early 1900s. Mary Mallon was the first documented, healthy carrier of typhoid fever in the U.S. Given their similar tastes for arcane references and hyperkinetic beats, Are You Gonna Eat That? is long overdue. The two Def Jux alums have both appeared on each other’s work over the years, and both are currently still waving the flag for independent rap music. Known for their visceral imagery – lyrically and production-wise – the Bazooka Tooth and Telicatessen server actually scale back some of that poignancy to indulge their undeniable chemistry.
The LP’s old-school aesthetic is very reminiscent of the early 2000s underground, when many a Company Flow-inspired group was in abundance. Aes and Sonic bring a stripped-down method to their usual sonicscapes, employing quasi-futuristic synths and glitch sound effects, guitars, B-Boy-inspired breaks, and 808 drums without any redundancy.
But, when you hear Aes spit heady, scatterbrained thoughts like “Name and occupation: Aesop, twiddle thumbs with underlings/Foreign jobs, head shrunk, Agent Million, sex drugs” on the neck-snapping “Meter Feeder,” it’s just a whole different category of originality. The two schizo-minded MCs let their imaginations run amuck, whether as surfer B-boys on “Breakdance Beach” or brash, drunken frat boys on “Grubstake” (where they slide in a sly reference to the Beastie Boys). The contrast in each other’s vocal textures also complements their chemistry: Sonic’s passive demeanor and soft cadence vs. Aes’ biting wit and gritty, nasal delivery.
Are You Gonna Eat That? doesn’t chart any new territory, but it’s what you would expect from Aes Rizzle and Rob Sonic: abstract rhymes and dope beats. In fact, the Hail Mary Mallon LP shares similar results with other throwback, indie rap collaborations, including Empire State (2008) (Mighty Joseph), Droppin’ Science Fiction (2008) (The Mighty Underdogs) and Black Dialogue (2005) (The Perceptionists). Just as the two’s previous solo projects, the music will probably not sit well with most hip-hop heads, but it’s the perfect LP for each of their respective fan base.