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Old 05-11-2011, 01:52 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Analysis/Breakdown of Aesop Rock's lyrics

I feel I have studied Aesop Rock's discography long enough to be able to provide a sort of reference booklet for his songs. I've seen a lot of people asking for interpretations of verses on youtube, on, on forums... and I'm hoping to take a stab at this and get started.

I find it completely reasonable to say that there could be an upper division English/Literature class in college related to studying Aesop's wordplay and ciphers. His poems may often have more than one meaning, depending on the listener. So feel free to chime in if you have a different analysis of what's going on. It's all in good fun, for me. I would like to be able to 'Where's Waldo' all the pop culture references, all the symbolisms and double entendres, etc.

For an example, I was showing some of my friends a track, and a particular line that I really thought was clever. Their primary language is Spanish, but they generally understand and speak English, as a second language. The humor of the line "You should have shot yourself in the foot while it was in your mouth" was lost on them. Until I explained that it was a combination of two sayings, as it were: Shot yourself in the foot, and having your foot in your mouth... the former meaning you screw yourself, and the latter meaning you're talking out of your ass, and combined, you get a good ol' fashioned 'kill yourself, you moron'.

Let's rock and roll. I've got one I did in notepad last night, so I'm ready to rock off with one. I'm going to have an index with links here as it expands:

1. None Shall Pass
2. Keep Off the Lawn

Last edited by Mrd00d; 05-11-2011 at 03:42 AM.
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Old 05-11-2011, 01:53 AM   #2 (permalink)
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None Shall Pass

Verse 1:

Flash that buttery gold, jittery zeitgeist
Go ahead and flash your chains and flaunt your cash, but it's hard to hold onto isn't it? Nowadays, nowhere is safe, feeling skittish, (Zeitgeist= "Noun: The defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time: "'The story captured the zeitgeist of the late 1960s'.")

Wither by the watering hole, what a patrol
Grow old shooting the **** about what you did, usually talking out your ass, instead of doing. What a life!

What are we, to heart huckabee, art ****ery suddenly?
[This following section could use feedback, I can tell]
(Huckabees is a fictional store, a chain of "big-box" department stores akin to Wal-Mart or Target, in the 2004 "I Heart Huckabees", an existential indie comedy)
What are we, to shop big box, screw the small business people, and who are we to defile art such as is done in the mainstream so often lately?

Not enough young in his lung for the water wing
Too old for the floaties; not young enough for waterwings... Time to learn to float.

Colorfully vulgar poacher out of mulch like
'Imma pull the pulse out a soldier and bolt.' (Fine)
[Vulgar: ignorant, bad taste; or ordinary, common
Colorful: bright; stands out

Either way, those are contradictory. Bright, ignorant; or, ordinary but stands out
Take what you can from the contradiction and this next segment is also up in the air but I'm taking a stab at it]

The military goes in without a right to and takes what isn't theirs under false pretenses, but when our troops start dying and the reserves are getting taken out as well, and they're all out of human fodder to throw at the situation, they hightail it out with whatever they managed to get/get done and call the fallen soldiers heroes, mission accomplished. Thank you Pvt. Mulch!

Sign of the time we elapsed
When a primate climb up the spine and attach
It's a sign of the times, when we've got more worries and problems than ever.
("Monkeys/Primates on the back" are worries, regrets, anger and guilt that never keep quiet and refuse to sit still...By "having a monkey on your back," a negative situation has taken on a life of its own and is willfully imposing itself on you.)

Eye for an eye, by the bog's life swamps and vines
They get a rise out of frogs and flies
[Best guess:]
They made a system of poor vs. poor, poor vs. middle class, where we're fighting amongst each other, revenge lifestyle, capitalism, quietly, the richest get more rich. They get a kick out of watching us folks still stuck in the swamp while they're swinging on vines. Also, they are watching as the frogs eat the flies. The middle class eating the poor to try to stay alive.

Someone else suggested something to do with the rich enjoy purchasing cheap real estate such as swampland and turning into a cash cow, like what Disney did in Florida.

So when a dog fights hog-tied prize sorta costs a life
The mouths water on a fork and knife
Our greed and desire for material goods ruins other lives, but we just want ours. We care not, mostly, about the child in the sweatshop in China or the cartel wars in Mexico from American drug consumption, etc.

And the allure isn't right
No score on a war-torn beach
Where the cash cows actually beef
Blood turns wine when I leak for police
Like 'That's not a riot, it's a feast, let's eat.'
The wars aren't worth fighting for. Too many losers on a battlefield for either side to really call victory, And the prize is never worth the cost in valuable human lives.

Killing people is only acceptable for the military/police, and the thrill is too strong.

[Hook] And I will remember your name and face
On the day you are judged by "The Funhouse" cast
And I will rejoice in your fall from grace
With a cane to the sky like, "None shall pass."
(The Funhouse was a 1981 horror film about 4 teens who spend the night in a funhouse and, after witnessing a murder, are killed one by one. Three teens die, as well as the two murderous carnies. The cast: Kevin Conway, William Finley, Southern Mississippi University football star Cooper Huckabee, and two-time Academy Award-nominee Sylvia Miles. There's another Huckabee instance. If we say the characters, most ended up dead by the end of the movie; but the cast seems to be alive... hmm... we'll go with this for now but correct me if you think of something else

I will remember you when you are dead, and being judged for heaven or hell. And I will be glad to find that you were deemed unworthy of heaven, and sent to hell. Seemingly, none are worthy any more.

Wasn't sure if I needed to mention this, but Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings stood on a bridge and faced a giant demon so that the rest of the fellowship could escape. He stood strong with his staff and declared "You shall not pass" and drove his staff into the bridge, and .... the demon didn't pass, and then Gandalf falls off the bridge with the demon.

[Verse II/III]
Now if you never had a day a snow cone couldn't fix
You wouldn't relate to the rogue vocoder blitz
If your biggest problems can be fixed by taking your mind off of it, going to get a ice cream treat, or something, you're not going to relate to the dishonest autotune aural assaults we had on our radio airwaves [tongue in cheek]; basically listen to music you can relate to or that you enjoy for your own reasons. Not for status or for friends, but for yourself. Don't go being a thug if you're an honor student and live with your mother. Don't try to relate to the dishonest messages on the radio, that's for sure.

(Vocoder = autotuner; voice synthesizer)

How he spoke through a NoDoz motor on the fritz
Cause he wouldn't play rollover fetch like a bitch
And express no regrets, though he isn't worth a homeowner's piss
To the jokers who pose by the glitz
One who runs on energy supplements, NoDoz, caffeine, who is completely out of energy, just striving to make ends meet. Paycheck to paycheck warrior, but he refuses to play by their rules. He also doesn't want to let money run his life, he just wants enough to get by without worry. But even that is a challenge. But it's a challenge accepted; to hell with the fact that he's poor. He's rich in spirit. He didn't bend, breakdown, and sell his self for a bigger paycheck. While that doesn't mean much to those ladies and gents out there that judge others by their status symbols such as fashion, vehicle make and model, etc., it matters to him that he stays true and not be sucked into that world of excess.

Sign of the swine in the swarm
When a king is a whore who comply and conform
Miles outside of the eye of the storm
With a siphon to lure out a prize and award
While avoiding the vile and bizarre that is violence and war
True blue triumph is more!
Sign of the pigs in the crowd. Materialistic, greedy, pigs. And there's many of them. The materialistic outnumber the simple men of the earth by far too many.
When the ruler isn't governing, but playing to his own interests. He does what he's told by HIS superiors.
Far from the scene of war and turmoil, the government can send in little military pawns to do their bloody work and when it's finished, they remotely inherit their prize. Never had to leave the comfort of the office/home. Meanwhile, thousands have died and for what? [Insert precious resource here][Oil?] That's what they call victory!

Like, "Wait, let him snake up out of the centerfold."
"Let it break the walls of Jericho."
"Ready? Go!"
Sat where the old, cardboard city folk
Swap tales with heads like every other penny throw
Like, let's let it fester in this soldier instead. Let's let it break down his impenetrable walls of emotion.

(Someone said when you flip a penny, what the face of the coin does is rapidly switch between heads and tails)

When you're down with the homeless folks, the homeless 'heads' will tell tales about how things were (similarly ****ed up back then as they are now, just slightly worse now) with each other and any passerby that might spare some change.

Okay, woke to a grocery list
Goes like this: Duty and death
Anyone object, come stand in the way
You could be my little Snake River Canyon today
And I ran with a chain of commands
And a jet pack strapped where the backstab lands if it can (Fine...)
Only thing on the forecast is what is required of me, and then death.
Anyone going to get in the way of what's required of me, and there will just be a work around. It still will be done.
(Snake River Canyon is a large canyon formed by the Snake River in the Magic Valley region of southern Idaho. It is well known as the site of an unsuccessful 1974 attempt by Evel Knievel to jump it in the Skycycle X-2. Basically Evel wanted to jump the Grand Canyon on his motorcycle, but since Dept. of Agriculture was like "No" he bought his own land near Snake River Canyon, Id., "bought his own damn canyon" and went to jump it but **** didn't go well. But he walked away from a 600 foot fall with only minor injuries...)

And he has his orders, and he's got the tools he needs. And he's watching his back.

Sign of the vibe in the crowd
When I cut a belly open to find what climb out
That's quite a bit of gusto he muster up
To make a dark horse rush like, "Enough's enough!"
Seeing what the people are made of. Despite the vibe, or the way things appear, when you really get to the heart of it, are things really good? That's a bit of courage he's gathered, to challenge things as they stand and be new, different, unique.

(Dark horse is a term used to describe a little-known person or thing that emerges to prominence, especially in a competition of some sort. Started in horseracing, like with a new horse, the betters wouldn't be sure of its level of skill.)

It must've... struck a nerve so they huff and puff
Till all the king's men fluster and cluster****
All the 'betters' are like WTF is this Aesop guy good or bad or what? And they still have no idea. Now they know they don't like Aesop, because he confuses them. They couldn't market this if they tried.

And it's a beautiful thing
To my people who keep an impressive wingspan even when the cubicle shrink
You got to pull up the intruder by the root of the weed
NY chew through the machine

Even when life is tightening down on you, keep your mind and soul open. Embrace friend and foe, alike, in your wingspan. You're better than that, and them. But when somebody stomps in unwanted, you gotta remove it from the source. Don't **** around, really finish it off for good and for final. New York is fighting back against the man, the machine, etc.


More to come! Thoughts?

Last edited by Mrd00d; 05-11-2011 at 02:52 AM.
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Old 05-11-2011, 03:33 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Keep Off the Lawn

Most copious,
Brain soaked the opiates.
Notice to the phobias:
appropriately procreate.
Woke up with a ghost farm,
focused on his groceries,
when they aren't telling stories
they are multiplying grossly on the lawn.
Let 'em loiter, never let 'em spawn...
the "abhorritions" have been drinkin' this water for too long.
So when they gather by the birdbath in the morning you can tell 'em:
"I mean no disrespect but you have all outstayed your welcome"
Brain is all high on drugs, because they are readily available. Just... don't be having crack babies. Pay attention that if you're going to have a child/children, don't be doing drugs. Do it right.

Ghost farm, I reckon, is like a ghost town. In this case, it is devoid of crops, or livestock, or anything of value. He's focused on his 'groceries', his goods gotten from elsewhere. I'm seeing from this line a possible parallel to maybe imports and exports in America, ..."when they aren't telling stories"...

When they aren't telling stories (shooting BS usually), they're making more generations.
He follows up with: "Let them loiter... never let em spawn" Let them talk and talk, but cull the baby boom here. I'm seeing possible parallels, this feels like it can refer to anything. I picture here a redneck family with 14 children and more on the way, but I feel he can be referencing government policies, etc. Thoughts?

Abhorritions: Ahbor /Apparitions?
Abhor: v. Regard with disgust and hatred
Apparition: n. A ghost or ghostlike image of a person
Abhorritions: Un-real haters?

the "abhorritions" have been drinkin' this water for too long.
So when they gather by the birdbath in the morning you can tell 'em:
"I mean no disrespect but you have all outstayed your welcome
This section I believe is talking about the rap community. They've been doing the same thing, for far too long, and now, it's time for them to move on or step up their game.

Interesting in a sense...
Interrupt commiserating phantoms on your picket fence,
how quickly they will lift their heads...
and breathe an ultimatum like the dead don't argue.
Said: "You're living by the bayonet, but how alive are you?"
haggis, old juice, and bad ettiquette.
Elbows on the table, lobster bib on and on the ready set", he said,
"But how alive?"
"I dunno homie, you decide"
how alive?
too alive
Interesting how these haters, these 'ghosts', make ultimatums, "Like, the dead don't argue". When Aesop tells the mainstream to move over, to step up their game, they ignore him or tell him to get out of the game perhaps. Asking rhetorically to anyone listening: You live by the sword? What's important to you? How alive do you feel? Too alive?? Yikes...

And one by one, around the yard 'til each one felt communal pride
like they had done their little part in cleaning up the public...
with a steaming plate of justice for them East Baker stomachs.
(say what?)
One by one finding communal pride. False pride, I say. What's someone else's take on this passage?

We the legends at home with the unremembered.
Geriatric lurin' the clutch of the budding censored,
Who snuck around the art police and all related governments
to infiltrate a human lung and hike up off his tongue and lip!
Sitting with the forgottens of yesteryear (I feel he means veterans... Maybe even hiphop veterans that have been left behind) the older folks in power are trying to increase artistic censorship. But there are those doing their best to subvert the system of censorship. Get it through, despite the filters.

Ahh, the money's in the market for a mothership;
to double as a vessel to drag its legacy under it.
And who am I to hang 'em out to dry by the heap?
When, if rehydrating fails, we're all dumber because of me...
I'm very unsure here. There's a lot of conclusions you could come to here, but I think at the end, he is saying that he hopes that by trying to restimulate hiphop with good messages and good quality, if it fails, he hope he doesn't turn others away from experimenting with new ideas.

Zombies of the antiquated nation chatter quietly,
the too alive channel from the library of rivalry.
And summer is in the mud,
winter is by the tracks,
no story goes untold,
Aes is back!
Ghosts, zombies, all the same. They're BSing around doing the same ol thing.
The 'too alive' group, they live for showing up others, for rivalry...

I got a handful rockin' the same poker face
gonna dance around the table like they own the place.
I got the whole world thinkin' it's a holiday
'cause they can smell the chum in the water from miles away.

you look like you've seen a ghost.

how alive? too alive.
Bunch of people going around without any joy, poker faced all the time afraid to show the world they're happy. But they outnumber those who are brave enough to smile. Aesop is back, they better be worried. They were on holiday from Aesop and then he slammed this album down. They thought he was hurt by his less than mainstream, platinum album sales, or critical reviews saying perhaps he was being too complex. He gave a pause in releases. And then boosh!

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Old 01-08-2013, 02:38 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Dude, I would LOVE to hear some of your interpretations about some Labor Days tracks. The whole album is mostly a critique on America and the Capitalist system right?
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Old 06-11-2013, 09:45 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Yeah None Shall Pass is great. It seems like the common thing is to look at this song as a commentary on bush-era middle eastern war, and though that's certainly a part of it, I think it's best considered in the broader context of 21st century modern life and society.

I really like "sorta costs a life" and "cash cow's actually beef." Like when you say you're profiting from resources but aren't telling the whole story behind their acquisition. If you are in the habit of acquiring resources violently and exploitatively it makes more sense to say that your cash cow is violence/imperialist/exploitative mentality(hence the sarcastic sure your "cash cow's actually beef"). And then there's this dissonance; we're "sorta" profiting from a culture of exploitation under the guise of capitalistic resource acquisition. Sorta because on one level you know things like sweat shop labor exist, but on the other its actual occurrence is far outside your realm of experience--you are "miles outside the eye of the storm," as it were-- that its ambiguity in your mind is allowed to persist. "Flash that buttery gold, jittery zeitgeist"-- not only does the cultural ethic/zeitgeist that led to Western wealth/ascendance loom questionable in our minds, but the wealth it's led to dissolves before our very eyes. Maybe it's also the nervousness of people who live by it, leading them to insecurely parade the wealth it's led to even as it's melting through their fingers. Or maybe the descriptor "buttery" is more about the transience/meaningless of wealth than that it's disappearing.

The chorus is pretty cryptic, I have a guess though. "Funhouse" definitely refers to the movie, I think that's pretty clear. In the funhouse cast I think he tries to capture the structure of oppressed/oppressors relations. I know that sounds really contrived but here me out. The funhouse cast dies in the movie, but they're just acting, so it's fake. They don't live in the horrifically macabre funhouse of everyday life, they're rich, well-off actors. So he's talking about the people who call the shots, who can insert themselves into less powerful people's realities, exist in the 'horror' of these realities only as actors, and even profit from them as actors do from movies. When such people are judged by others like them, the powerful people whose judgements carry actual temporal weight, nothing will, of course, happen. But Aesop Rock will remember their names and faces, so that when it becomes clear that even with their worldly power and "glitz" they're still missing out on something, that is, when they are judged by a higher metric of worth, he can, you know, say he's right and that he called it. He can say "Sucks to suck swine, none of you shall pass" and feel awesome like Gandalf defying a Balrog.

There's so much more I could say but I'll leave it at that. Thanks for the interpretation mr d00d, I was pretty clueless about this song before it.
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