Aesop Rock gives people a roadmap to his alternate dimension
There is often curiosity that bounces between people’s minds about what is out there beyond what they know. Whatever there is out there remains a curiosity, as many just don’t find the need to explore it. However, for people like Aesop Rock, they do. The New York native rapper has been making waves underground since 1999. From his debut to now, he has gone from the heavy and gritty raps to a more inward and mindful approach. A Spirit World Field Guide is an example of this approach and his curiosity of the beyond. “I came up with this ‘Spirit World’ concept where it’s an alternate dimension that isn’t necessarily bad or good,” he says in an interview with FLOOD Magazine. “You are not lost you are in the Spirit World—which is what you make of it.” In this 21-track project, Aesop takes people through his world and what he has experienced in it.
Opening the album is “Hello From The Spirit World.” Rather than a song, it is more of an introduction to the different sections that will be heard throughout. “The Gates” follows after as the first single and as the entrance into the world. A video game melody stays consistent throughout as synths, bass and snares fill up the production. “Button Masher” takes an outer space sound as the song describes the building of a spaceship getting ready to escape within your own imagination. With a heavy electric guitar, quick drums and implementation of scratching vocals on a turntable, “Gauze” brings a more serious energy to this upbeat project. It’s like a warning that not everything is going to be perfect always.
“Pizza Alley” actually is inspired from a trip to Lima, Peru. In a text interview posted on Instagram, Aesop considered that time as him questioning his place in music and being depressed. The name comes from the alley near the hotel in which he stayed. The first half describes the city life area whereas once the beat changes, it focuses on his time in the Amazon Jungle. “Boot Soup” brings in sampled vocals from Homeboy Sandman against a steady drum and hi hat, switches between light and drone synths and a nice bass underlying that all. Aesop takes the time here to explain that people around one can affect their experience in the Spirit World. “Jumping Coffin” is the halfway point of the album. On a more electric song, Aesop encourages letting in outside influences. He emphasizes in the chorus, “Some try to combat any kind of odd force tryna make contact, nah, let it in, let it in.”
“Holy Waterfall” is about another trip the rapper went on, this time to Cambodia. A lot lighter than the previous song about a trip experience, it brings the more spiritual energy the rest of the album gives. “Salt” is another moody track. With an emphasis on the drums and bass with a synth as it decrescendos, it reflects on being misunderstood and how irritating it can be. The last song about Aesop’s trips comes in “Sleeper Car.” Inspired by an overnight trip, Aesop describes his surroundings and feelings on a dark otherworldly production. This beat was coproduced with Leon Michaels and HANNI.
“Kodokushi” has a similar sound but this time focuses on the loneliness of the Spirit World. The name of the song comes from the Japanese phenomenon of people dying alone and not being discovered until well after their death. Even though he knows the Spirit World is where he should be, Aesop says he is the “architect of my Kodokushi,” meaning he acknowledges that he is the reason this loneliness is happening to him. “Marble Cake” gives this sinister but triumphant beat as it has a great balance between the guitar, bass, drums and synths. This song is geared towards appreciating the experience and not what happens at the end. Being able to explore and go through these situations has privilege and value and should be given appreciation because that’s what people really remember and carry with them. The final track, “The Four Winds,” Aesop considers an epilogue rather than the finale. He says, “This is like an epilogue…I kinda like the idea of ending on an ellipsis instead of an exclamation point.” Despite the previous tracks sonically sounding grim, this one is a lot lighter as he incorporates an acoustic guitar this time to accompany the bass, drums and synths. Aesop ends the album with such fitting words, “I stand the hell up, I see myself out.”
Spirit World Field Guide gives listeners a sense of relief. Aesop throughout encourages the exploration of one’s own alternate dimensions. This album is a way for those who are on their own journeys to look for a section they feel most applicable and explore it. Aesop Rock gives those listening a chance to see his experience and let them know any uncertainties or fear that may arise is okay; people are not alone. Spirit World Field Guide is just the starter everyone needs to begin finding the deeper and expansive meaning their life has.