Jamie Boulding: Please introduce yourself, sir.
Aesop Rock: Sup man, this is Aesop Rizzle.

First of all, can you just clarify for anyone who doesn't know what your name means and where you got it from.
I had the name Aesop from this little movie my friend was making. It was my character's name. It stuck. Then the ‘Rock’ part came later because I used to just add it on in my rhymes.

Alright, everyone knows you put out Float last year and you must have answered a thousand questions about it, but were you surprised with how well it was received?
I'm glad it was received well. It definitely helped me build my name up more.

Did you plan on making another album so soon after Float or did something suddenly inspire you?
I never really stopped working. When Float was done I just kept on writing and recording. There were a lot of weird things going on in my life at the time Float was made. A lot of discomfort surrounded that record for many reasons, so I just felt the need to keep working. At that time I lived in a two-bedroom apartment with five people and a dog.

How much have you improved since Float? What can we expect lyrically and stylistically from your new album? Will there be any constant themes running through it?
In some ways it picks up where Float left off, but in other ways it's a totally different record. It's better. It makes more sense as a whole project. There is a continuous labor/work theme that runs through it. Anyone who has had to work many hours on shit they don't care about for financial reasons should be able to identify. Anyone sick of the daily routine and everything like that. I think me and the people I work with musically have all evolved and grown to become better at what we do, and it shows. Blockhead's new shit is ridiculous. We spent time on it, and I think that comes through.

Who else is on the album and who's taking care of the production?
Production wise we have Blockhead with nine tracks, myself with four and my man Omega One with one. On guest vocals, we have my man C-Rayz Walz from New York's Stronghold Crew and Illogic from Columbus's Weightless Crew.

What do you think about kids bootlegging your shit before it is officially released? If you met somebody who downloaded Labor Days what would you say to them?
I think it sucks. I think that people who love me and/or respect my music completely disregard that respect by downloading music prior to its release. Bootlegging is obviously wrong; nobody needs to be told that. Cats just don't care. They'd rather have the music before anyone than wait and pay the artist properly. I guess some cats still purchase the product later anyway, but many won't. And even if you do buy it later, it's not right. Me and my label have given the product a release date. Period. A date of release. That's it.

Word. Talking about highly anticipated albums, did you like The Cold Vein? What else have you been listening to lately?
I loved The Cold Vein record. It reminded me of when indie hip hop really blew up in New York in like ‘96 or so. Everything dropping was dope. Co-Flow, Siah and Yeshua, etc. Since then the indie world has been so stagnant and boring. That record really gave me that feeling again. Vast and Vordul are two of my favorite emcees in the world. Lately I really have only been listening to cats I know. The new El-P shit is bonkers. Weightless B-Sides. Atoms shit. Stronghold Mixtape. Aside from that, the latest Ghostface record has not left the rotation in months. I also listen to Outkast and the Beatles.

So how did you get down with Def Jux and how do you feel that they have helped you? Will you stay with them forever?
I’ve been friends with the Can Ox cats for a while. I think El-P heard my shit through them. We started building eventually and he offered to do my next record on Def Jux. I couldn't say no because the artists from Lif to Can Ox to El are my favorite artists. These are all great people with visions similar to mine. Right now I'm real happy with the label. It feels good to be a part of it, and we are all friends.

What is your take on Def Jam's proposal to sue Def Jux unless they change their name?
I don't know. That shit is crazy. It sucks because even though in the end we're probably right they can boss us around for a little while because of their size. If we fought the case they could stop us from putting out records under that name until after the case was decided which could be a long time, and the upcoming release schedule is hefty. Def Jux can't afford to lose that time. Whatever happens, cats are gonna call it Def Jux anyway. It's just a shame.

A lot of lyricists have a certain environment which inspires them most. Where do you actually go to get inspiration?
I sit at home a lot. I like movies and video games. I hate parties and bars. I usually get pissed off when I go out because people start acting stupid. Some knucklehead always has to have everyone's attention, or has to prove something. I'd rather just be home where I know what's going on. I sit in my house and write about those people, the people that act stupid for attention. They're funny.

Anticon member Why? apparently records the noises he makes while he dreams and then listens to the tapes later to help him write lyrics. Do you dream a lot? Ever get any ideas for rhymes from your dreams and nightmares?
I don't actually remember dreams very often. I don't think I ever wrote about a dream. My nightmares are stupid usually. Like I go to school naked or something. Nothing really monsterish or anything.

A lot of your lyrics, especially on Float, seem to deal with New York and the claustrophobic nature of the city. Recently, I was talking with another NYC emcee, Oktober, who compares the subway trains to slave ships. Do you agree with that?
I don't know if I agree directly with that, but I will say it gets pretty claustrophobic. It's a busy place. My apartment is a shoebox. It's impossible to avoid the tight quarters in this city. At the same time, I love it to death. People often come visit and say they don't know how I can live here, I guess I'm just used to it. There's so much going on here, so it's easy to get lost in the commotion. I like that aspect of it.

Yeah, no doubt. But how do you feel about people dissecting your lyrics? Do you spend hours crafting them together and creating hidden meanings, or do you just find that once you start writing the ideas flow naturally? Should we be analyzing your shit so deeply?
Sometimes people take it too far. I mean, I don't know… I spend time with what I write, and to a degree I try to make shit connect behind the scenes, but sometimes cats waaaaay over analyze shit. It's cool I guess. If kids find some crazy other meaning for shit and it helps them through their day then that's cool, but I hate when people step to me like “what does it mean when you say… ?” I don't really answer those types of questions. I don't make shit up and everything I say makes sense to me. That's all that is important. I'll tell you what though, I never really thought my shit was that abstract. Most of the time I just think of interesting ways to say “fuck you.” That's my main goal.

So I guess kids are wrong when they talk about Aesop's own “poetic vocabulary?”
Yeah, I wouldn't say I made up my own vocabulary, I just repeat themes a lot and they always mean the same thing. It ain't like another language or anything, I just say words over and over and people catch on. I don't even realize I'm doing it anymore.

Alright man, let's talk about the Orphanage project. Is the album finished, when can we expect it and what are the tracks gonna be like? Who's behind the production?
Well… I had a show in Minneapolis a while back so we all met up there to record. We did about seven or so songs, mostly Blueprint's beats, some Ant beats. For those that don't know it's me, Blueprint (the best rapper ever), Illogic, Slug and Eyedea. Most of them are us just talking a lot of shit. We didn't want to do anything too dense, just have fun. The songs came out good. As far as releasing them, we don't know what's happening. Rhymesayers will probably be putting them out, but we don't know what form it will be in. Maybe just a bunch of 12-inchess in a row. Who knows. It's just some fun shit.

If it's successful, will we see future Orphanage albums?
I mean we're all friends, so we'll probably keep doing songs whenever we see each other. I just did a track with Blueprint over Rocksteady weekend. A banger too. I'm sure people will continue to see collabos from all of us.

Let's hope so. Another collaboration you were involved in, “Put Your Quarter Up” from the Molemen album, was definitely one of the most anticipated tracks of the year. How did it come about and were you happy with how it went down?
PNS contacted me with the idea. MF Doom is a cool cat and a dope emcee who does no wrong. Slug's dope too and a friend. We all had to spit at different times, which sucks, but I think overall the song came out very dope. It's got a nice posse cut feel to it and everyone does their thing on it. I ended up working with Doom again on the Prefuse record.

At the end of the Orphanage Freestyle Slug said you got a new cat. How's that working out?
My cat is the bomb. He erases my beats if they're wack (no joke).

Hahaha. I can think of a few producers who need a cat like that. Anyway, I want you to be truthful now, man. Who smokes more out of you and Slug?

I don't know, it's close!

So everybody knows you're a video game fiend. Did you cop a Playstation 2 or are you holding out for the Gamecube?
I copped the PS2 but honestly it has sorta been letting me down. SSX Snowboarding is dope, but they haven't really brought that much heat. I got this game “Dark Cloud” which is supposed to be Playstation's version of Zelda, and it's just boring. Vast got this “Zone of Enders” shit which looks cool, but they really ain't brought it yet. I hope they come with some next shit soon.

If you could be any video game character, who would it be?
Probably Link from Zelda because he gets the ill adventure and the fly girl at the end.

In a recent interview, Eyedea talked about trying to attain freedom and complete happiness in life. What do you think the meaning of life is? What's your ultimate goal?
Wow… if I knew that I wouldn't be here right now. I just want to go on tour and keep doing music. Chill with friends. Eventually get married and move to a lake to go fishing all day.

Okay, so will you be content to keep putting out popular underground albums, making just enough money to live off, or do you wanna blow the fuck up and be on MTV?
I wouldn't mind being more then just comfortable. I hate the public eye though, so if I were plastered all over the TV, I don't think I could handle it. I want to be like Portishead. Just blow the fuck up but never do interviews and never run around. I just want to get paid to sit at home and make dope songs. That's still my favorite part of all of it. Making songs. There's no better feeling then making a dope song.

On the HHI discussion board, somebody posted a list of all the classic albums that dropped in 1991, making this year's releases seem weak in comparison. With that said, how do you see hip-hop ten years down the line? Will it get better or descend into a dark abyss full of wackness?
I don't know and to some degree I don't care. It's already so warped, people argue forever about what is and what isn't hip hop. I have my opinions too but I keep my mouth shut. If I get too caught up in all that shit I'll go crazy. I'm just gonna keep doing this shit as long as it comes naturally to me. Keep evolving. Keep doing what I know to be dope hip hop music. Keep supporting those who I know to be dope. As long as I do that then I can say I did my part.

As a NYC head, what do you make of Nas and Jay-Z dissing each other? Do you still like them?
I love both of them. I don't think Nas still brings the heat as consistently as Jay-Z and I think that in 2001, Jay will come up on top because he's just too clever. His delivery was built on talking to cats, so his battle verses are so dope. It sounds like he's just talking to you and calmly explaining why you're a punk ass. On the other hand, if Nas could still write a song like “N.Y. State of Mind,” shit could get scary. I'm anxious to see what happens, but I think Jay-Z will prove victorious given their current stats.

How much more have you got to improve before you consider yourself to be the “perfect emcee?”
I'll never consider myself that. Whoa…

What are your non-musical influences?
I like artwork. From graffiti to Rembrandt. I used to paint a lot, but not as much anymore. I also like movies. That shit gets me super sparked to write some crazy shit. Where do you lie on the political scale? What do you think of George W? I think he's obviously a dumbass, but to tell you the truth I don't pay as much attention to that shit as I probably should. I only start giving a fuck when shit actually affects me. Like with all the changes Giuliani has made to NY… I can see that shit first hand so I have an opinion on it. Bush has proven himself to be an idiot and I'm sure he'll continue down that path, but I didn't vote, so to a degree it's hard for me to complain.

I read on the Weightless Board that you've never been drunk. So what guilty pleasures do you have?
Yeah I never drank before. Lots of cigarettes have been smoked. I've experimented with a handful of other shit, but being drunk never really appealed to me. I used to just observe the outcomes of certain things and say, hey that looks interesting, or that doesn't… drinking never caught my eye as something I'd like to do. I think I'd be a loud drunk who would get myself beat up a lot.

Sorry man, but I've been forced to ask you this: boxers or briefs?

If you could bring back one dead person for five minutes who would it be and what would you tell them?
Whoa… uhh… I don't know. My grandfather maybe… or my friend Glenn… I don't know. That's a hard one.

Do you believe in God? Are you going to heaven or hell?
I used to not believe in God, or more accurately just not know, but over the course of the last month or two, events have occurred that made me need to believe in something. To some degree it's still a big question mark, but I'd like to think I'm going to heaven when this is all done. There's nothing that says that I won't just die and that's it… nothing…. but I ‘d like to think that it carries on after that.

And finally, if you could go back and change anything in your career, what would it be?
Nothing. Of course I have regrets, but I think they shape me to be a better person and to be more conscious of my future decisions. That sounded like an after school special.

Any final comments/shoutouts you wanna add?
Pick up Labor Days on Sept. 18th. Word the fuck up. I’m the shit! Yeah, yeah! Peace.

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