In the world of underground hip-hop, Aesop Rock has been hailed as one of the greatest rappers due to his lyrics, flow, and overall style. They subject matter that he raps about gives his raps substance unlike many of the rappers in the mainstream today. While Aesop Rock has gained a hardcore loyal following, many mainstream hip-hop fans will confuse this rapper’s name with ASAP Rocky who has recently spent more time modeling than rapping.
Starting his rise to underground fame on the well-known Definitive Jux label, Aesop Rock worked alongside label owner and fellow rapper EL-P who is now more widely known for his rap group Run The Jewels. The commercial success of Aesop Rock’s Bazooka Tooth launched both Definitive Jux and Aesop Rock into the spotlight for a short time. Reaching 112 on the Billboard 200 showed that this rapper could compete against artists on major labels will million-dollar advertising budgets. Reaching seven on the Billboard Independent Albums chart and one on the Top Heatseeker Albums chart showed that Aesop Rock was able to hold his own in the world of commercial music.
While most Aesop Rock fans saw these numbers as a premonition for airplay on the radio and time on MTV, these kinds of things never really happened. Most critics attributed this to non-competitive advertising budgets, the lack of a radio friendly hit song, and the complex and sometimes confusing lyrics that mainstream audiences couldn’t relate with. It seems as though the era Aesop Rock came up in, the mainstream was more interested in artists like Eminem 50 Cent rapping about being a “P.I.M.P” and hanging out “In Da Club”.
While many loyal Aesop Rock fans were upset about their favorite rapper not getting the exposure and airplay he deserved, as the years went on, Aesop Rock starting finding more airplay online with the advancement of the internet. When streaming sites like YouTube became more advanced, music fans turned to their laptops and smartphones to listen to their favorite music. Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon to run into an Aesop Rock song on YouTube with multiple millions of views. While this is far behind the mainstream rappers who are getting hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, Aesop Rock has still maintained his status as king of the underground with a loyal fanbase.
It seems as though the mainstream listeners are just more interested in hearing about fast cars, chains, and girls on the radio. Aesop Rock has some amazing rhymes, but they just aren’t the type of lyrics that are going to rope in the masses. However, no one should downplay the major success that this rapper has had in his career so far. While still currently on tour and selling out most of his shows, it seems as though the future is very bright for this underground rapper. There may be a time where Aesop Rock releases a song with a hook that catches the masses, but making a “hit song” doesn’t really seem to be something that would concern a more artistic rapper like Aesop Rock.