In 2014, Matt Daniels compiled a data analysis for Polygraph that ranks several rappers according to their vocabularies. Aesop Rock proved to be number one, easily. Each of his albums are unique planets of language and instrumentation, and The Impossible Kid is a fitting addition to the MC’s linguistic galaxy.
Whereas Rock’s last solo album, Skelethon, showcases his unparalleled knack for abstract imagery and reflection, The Impossible Kid combines hallucinatory wordplay with disarmingly forthright autobiography—a combination that enhances the impact of each mode. “Mystery Fish” opens the record with driving synth that sounds like part of the anxiety-inducing soundtrack to Only God Forgives. A bottom-dwelling groove quickly provides a foundation for Rock to spit lyrics that jump from pop culture to world history to self-deprecation. This dense free association is classic Aesop Rock, letting fans know that he hasn’t lost a step. Rock then recounts his secluded adolescence in first single “Rings.” Atop a syncopated, Questlove-style beat, the MC dissects his teenage self and reassembles the pieces.
“Lotta Years” is a brief day-in-the-life of young Rock that pulses with an old-school sensibility, and “Dorks” might be the most frank explanation that the rapper has given about his decision to move into a barn in the woods. Speaking about the culture of fame seekers, Rock describes that scene as “a theater of jumping jellyfish / jealous little sycophants / miserable and flimsy from the skippies to the pissy pants / each one separately convinced they’re sketching with Da Vinci’s hands.” Responding to this environment much like Emerson or Thoreau, he says, “Party over here / I’ll be over there.”
The gelatin mass of unsettling images and religious references that is “Supercell” provides a productive contrast to “Blood Sandwich,” an uncharacteristically direct track about Aesop Rock’s two brothers. A prism of synth spins as the rapper remembers one of his younger brother’s Little League games during which a coach brutalized a rodent with a baseball bat. Punctuated by a sparse drum fill, the second half of the song is tinged with melancholy as Rock reminisces about his estranged, Ministry-obsessed older brother.
“Get Out Of The Car” also features relatively straightforward autobiography, while tracks like “Shrunk” and “Tuff” throw Rock’s personal experiences into a blender of wordplay and psychedelic abstraction. In “Water Tower,” the MC paints a disjointed portrait of mental illness that’s intensified by relentless electronic droning. The Impossible Kid closes with the lyrical kaleidoscope of “Molecules.”
While most rappers deal with their personal experiences, Aesop Rock’s examination and depiction of his life and family are filtered through a miasma of uncanny language. The Impossible Kid is another reminder that Rock is in his own universe.