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Aesop Rock makes the unintelligible, well, entertaining; the legendary Shapeshifters shuffle up from L.A.

Wednesday, Dec 1 2004
More slanted and enchanted than Thomas Pynchon’s rhyme dictionary, Aesop Rock’s lyrics risk leaving listeners cold, but the grave honesty of the MC’s delivery is forceful enough to convince us that this all means something. And in the end, Aesop’s words mean all things to all people: For the urban hipster, they’re a sly sign of pomo solidarity; to the legions of pimply-faced suburbanites, they’re a lonely voice of alienated sophistry; and to the modern b-boy, they’re a blueprint for a doper tomorrow. For his upcoming show at Slim’s, Aesop Rock will be joined by fellow Def Jux artist Mr. Lif, whose fanatically Marxist lyrics are as literal as Aesop’s are abstract. Fortunately, both Lif and Aesop never forget that this is a hip hop show, not a book signing. Their high-energy live sets are instantly engaging and ultimately fun. Catch them on Thursday, Dec. 2, at Slim’s; call 255-0333 or go to

The Shapeshifters are one of indie hip hop’s most credible and lasting collectives. Although they’ve only been releasing albums for the past four years, they’ve been together for over a decade. And with their ranks now swelling to eight deep — including AWOL ONE, Circus, Existereo, Akuma, Liferexall, Die, Radioinactive, and LA Jae — they resemble the Wu-Tang Clan if it were populated by emotionally troubled troubadours (AWOL ONE), sci-fi-shaded conspiracy junkies (Circus), and unrepentant audio experimentalists (take your pick). The blend of urban paranoia and basement innovation reflects the Shapeshifters’ background as graffiti writers, and each of the 20 songs on their latest, The ShapeShifters Was Here, pops with the fluent personality of the best graffiti pieces. With nods to dub, electro, and old-school hip hop, the album offers a nice confluence of stoned, SoCal sounds. This group of underground Cali hip hop’s finest takes to the sure-to-be sold-out Milk this Sunday, Dec. 5; call 387-6455 or go to for more info.

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Sam Chennault


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