My buddy Jeremy Fish introduced me to Aesop Rock many years ago. I don’t mean he introduced me to his music, I mean he literally said, “Hey, Mike, this is Aesop,” and we met in J-Fish’s studio. I tried to play it cool like I wasn’t starstruck, but under my faux calm demeanor I was freaking the fudge out. He was cool as hell and I became an even bigger fan that day. I think we’re drawn to art that we can relate to on some level, and the fact that Aesop rhymes about vector graphics, the Bones Brigade, and Al Jourgensen certainly resonates within my sphere of interests. On the dawn of his new album, Garbology, I thought I’d hit him up for a quick six-pack of questions. 

Michael Sieben: Your new album, Garbology—which was produced by Blockhead—was just released. Was it cathartic to work on this project through the thick of the pandemic?
Aesop Rock: Absolutely. In January 2020, I lost a close friend, and by the time the pandemic hit, my year had already gone to shit. I lost the drive for a couple months—no writing, no beats, no drawing. At some point, I just started asking Block to send stuff. I guess only having to focus on the lyric writing felt digestible, and once we got a couple songs in, it was a great distraction from what was happening outside.

Were you and Blockhead able to meet up in person during the process, or were you socially distanced the whole time?
I think we were socially distanced the whole time. We’ve lived on different coasts for a long time now, though, so it didn’t really hinder too much. He and I came into music together a long time ago, and we do a lot of things similarly. Process-wise, it’s just always right there. 

Are you excited to get back onstage and perform when this virus becomes endemic, or have you enjoyed your time at home?
I haven’t been onstage since a few years before the pandemic. At some point, I really hit a wall with the touring/performing aspect of what’s commonly seen as my job. I’m not someone who naturally wants to be onstage. I had to kind of redefine my job for myself, for my own mental well-being. I do the parts I actually enjoy in arenas where I feel like I may have something to offer. I’m not saying never again—just not right now.

Your skating roots run pretty deep. What do you think of rappers claiming skating when you know they don’t really roll. Do you give a shit?
I don’t care too much, but I also don’t care that much when rappers have ghostwriters or any of that. I know it’s all supposed to bother me, but I got shit to do. Plus, it’s kind of fascinating. 

If you’d pursued a career in the visual arts versus music, what type of art do you think you’d be making today?
It’s hard to say. Drawing is so fucking hard. I jumped ship because I never really had the chops to pull it and I knew it. I always wanted to get good at accurately drawing everyday people doing everyday shit—pencil on paper, figures in a space. 

What’s your advice to the 12-year-old kid out there who wants to grow up to be a rapper?
I think if you’re going to pursue being a rapper and you consider what you do to be “art,” it’s probably going to be a lonely road on a lot of levels. That’s not all bad, but it can be, sometimes. If you’re still on board, just work hard. We can tell when you don’t and it’s annoying.

Garbology is out now.