Abstracthiphop is a sub-genre of hip hop that is much more obscure both lyrically and sonically. It is a unique counterculture that combats the mainstream and it is starting to reach its zenith.
Abstract hip-hop music has become an important tool for poor youths to express their feelings and reflect on their lived experiences. However, the commodification of this genre has led to its diluting for global consumption.
Aesop Rock (aka Ian Bavitz) is a critically acclaimed hip hop artist, recognized for his dense and abstract word play. He has released a number of EPs and albums throughout his career. His most notable works include Music for Earthworms (1997), Appleseed (1999), and Float (2000).
Aesop has an extremely wide vocabulary, which is oftentimes overwhelming at first listen, but if you take your time and read the lyrics you can soon get into the groove of this rapper’s lyrical game. He uses a revolutionary argot–one that requires patience, rewards repetition, and above all sounds dope.
His latest album, The Impossible Kid, is Aesop’s most personal release since 2012’s Skelethon. It focuses on his life and how it has changed over the past four years.
He has also taken a different approach to writing and producing his songs, and he is no longer focused on obscure wordplay as much as before. This he says is because he does not feel as connected to the hip hop scene anymore.
The lyricist has recently released a couple of songs for Freedom Finger, an over-the-top and psychedelic side-scrolling space-shooter game. He has also provided original instrumental music for the game.
In addition to writing and producing music, Aesop has also started writing fiction. He is currently working on a novel called “The Last Day”.
Aesop Rock’s newest album, The Impossible Kid, has a lot of the same features that he is known for. It is very clever and innovative, but not as mind-bending as his previous work.
The title track, for example, is a song about a trip to his psychiatrist, with an incredibly infectious beat. It is a great song and one that will get you thinking about your own life.
2. Shabazz Palaces
Seattle’s Shabazz Palaces are acclaimed globally for their experimental approach to the genre of hip hop. They re-work and blend classic R&B sounds with modern techniques to create unique and genre redefining music.
Their fifth album ‘The Don of Diamond Dreams’ is out now and is a step forward from previous releases, both musically and lyrically. It’s a great album and you should listen to it if you haven’t already!
Founded by Ishmael Butler, Shabazz Palaces focuses on reinterpreting classic hip hop songs in new ways. They often work with samplers, effects and percussion to physically regenerate their sprawling psychedelic songs.
They’re very popular live and have been doing this for over a decade now, blending reworked beats with tight rhymes and creating a new style of hip hop that people love. They’ve collaborated with Woke and are a great addition to any hip hop fan’s playlist.
Since they started, they have been releasing albums and EPs that push the boundaries of hip hop music. They are constantly evolving, trying to remove the barriers that prevent people from experimenting with hip hop and making it their own.
It’s this constant evolution that gives Shabazz Palaces a unique sound and style. It’s a great sound and one that has been very influential for other artists to follow.
On ‘Black Up’ the group have really tried to take their sound further, moving away from the strident minimalism of their first two LPs and exploring a more fluid sound. On this album it really works, with the beats shifting and curling as the song progresses. It’s a great album and I recommend it to anyone who likes to experiment with their music.
3. Lord Quas
Madlib is perhaps one of the most enduring figures in the world of abstract hip hop. With a catalogue of solo and collaborative projects spanning over two decades, you can drop into any of his projects with confidence that you’re going to come away with something new and engrossing.
He’s been a trailblazer in the Los Angeles beat scene, and as a producer, he is one of the most influential in modern music. His ear for finding unique samples is legendary, and he has collaborated with some of the greatest artists in the genre including MF DOOM.
But he’s also a satirist, and it’s this aspect of his work that makes Lord Quas such an important figure. The character of Quasimoto, who’s a goofy yellow dude with a helium voice, is a parody of rap’s standard characterised MCs, and allows Madlib to reinterpret his own songs in a more playful manner.
With a voice that’s sped up, Quasimoto’s vocals can be a little too sloppy to really capture the essence of what Madlib is trying to say, but this character has the potential to add some depth and confessional honesty to his songs. And in fact, his evocatively written lyrics often stray from the usual lyrical topics and focus on Quasimoto’s personal life.
It’s these elements that make The Further Adventures of Lord Quas such a fascinating record. The album combines the best of the styles of both M.E.D and MF DOOM, and the production is a lot more different than you’ll find on any regular mainstream hip hop album.
It’s a brilliantly crafted concept record that will appeal to fans of both Madlib and abstract hip hop. But it’s not a record for everyone and it may be too much of a stretch for some listeners. Still, for those who are looking to expand their horizons and appreciate an eclectic production that is a step above the norm, Further Adventures of Lord Quas is a must have.
A group of Cincinnati Jews, cLOUDDEAD made their name in the alternative hip hop scene by reinventing the process of making hip-hop through a variety of methods. Their 2001 self-titled debut is an enduring influence on a number of avant-garde groups, and remains one of the most interesting albums of its era.
The cLOUDDEAD line-up consists of Doseone (Adam Drucker), Why? (Yoni Wolf), and Odd Nosdam (David Madson). Typically, they provide vocals to tracks. They also produce most of their own music, and their music is as varied as they are experimental.
They used an eight-track cassette multitracker and a Boss SP202 Dr Sample to create their sound, looping and phasering pop samples over field recordings of moving furniture and telephone conversations, as well as crate-dug samples from old film clips. It was a no-holds-barred experiment in lo-fi production, and the results were stunningly innovative for their time.
But what makes cLOUDDEAD so distinctive is that they were able to take the most experimental techniques of trip-hop and abstract hip hop and weave them into something that was not only strange and disorientating, but completely and unmistakably musical. As a result, they became the pioneers of “cloud rap,” a subgenre that continues to make its mark today.
Their lyricism focuses on a mash-up of Jungian dream logic and childlike wonder. It’s a blend of schizoid lunacy and neologism that makes cLOUDDEAD’s lyrics surprisingly hard to decipher. They are reminscent of William S. Burroughs’ ‘The Velvet Ant’ and J.G. Ballard’s ‘Dead Dogs Two’ and can be as engrossing as their music.
The trio was inspired by the neo-psychedelic rock of Aphex Twin and Daedalus, but cLOUDDEAD’s music is as eclectic as it is innovative. They take the most experimental aspects of hip-hop, such as bass lines that can shatter windows or horns with soaring resonance, and weave them into their music in a way that feels more like spoken poetry than rapping. Their lyrics are often obfuscated and layered in an illusory fashion, delivering them through an interlocking chorus of voices that wrap around each other in an echo chamber of confusion.
5. MF DOOM
MF DOOM, whose real name was Daniel Dumile, has long been known as one of the most enigmatic and creative forces in hip hop. He had a knack for creating different characters, storylines and narratives with each of his monikers, often flicking back and forth between them as the project progressed.
Throughout his career, he was always pushing the boundaries of rap music. While his early work focused on a more aggressive style, it later shifted to a darker and more thoughtful direction.
In addition to his lyrical mastery, MF DOOM was also a very skilled producer, showcasing an ability to create unique soundscapes and incorporating various beats and instruments into his work. He was also a very talented writer, and his rhymes often had a deep meaning behind them.
On his latest LP Madvillainy, the rapper decided to experiment with singing on a few tracks. While this may seem a bit strange at first, it’s actually a very interesting move that breaks from the more traditional rapping styles he typically employs.
The track “Rainbows” is a good example of this. It uses a slow, droning instrumental to set the stage for DOOM’s singing. The distorted vocals, coupled with Drano on the hook, create a hallucinatory effect that strengthens DOOM’s mischievous and villainous persona.
Another of his most memorable projects, The Mouse and the Mask, was a collaboration with Danger Mouse that showcased DOOM’s love for cartoons. The project’s goofy animation references and quirky voiceovers provided a refreshing break from his more serious and darker ventures.
As a result, this release is a must have for any fan of the rapper and a testament to his innate creativity. In addition to his rapping skills, MF DOOM was a master of production techniques and was one of the most prolific underground rappers of all time. His contributions to the hip hop scene have influenced many other artists, and his legacy continues to live on.