That’s all a rap fan wants: for their favorite emcees to stay their favorite emcees. Falling off is just standard operation for most rappers and we tend to take that for granted. Whether tastes just change or skills really do degrade over time, everybody will get to a tipping point. Gold can’t glitter forever. But stick enough of it together in one spot and it might become Fort Knox.
Enter: Definitive Jux. Imagine the surprise and delight of rap addicts my age when we found out a label we came up on had signed a bunch of rappers that grew up with us, watching them get better and better. El-P’s career has launched into the stratosphere with Run the Jewels after perfecting his sound since his Company Flow days. Aesop Rock managed to capture an entire other demographic (with help from Kimya Dawson as The Uncluded) alongside a relentlessly consistent stream of great records. Camu Tao blessed us with work both underrated, like Smashy Trashy, and endearingly weird, like his Blair Cosby records, before leaving us (R.I.P.) with King of Hearts—a collection of rap married with new wave and punk and electro so beautifully ahead of its time it hurts to know it was never finished.
And then there’s Rob Sonic, heroic villain or villainous hero depending on the time of day. He was nice on the microphone first as part of aural acid-trip rap quartet Sonic Sum. After picking up production and a deal with Def Jux, he gave us Telicatessen and Sabotage Gigante before the label folded. Two albums full of dystopian synth-funk slop, a flow like a butcher’s knife, heavy doses of dark humor, and a penchant for absurd juxtapositions. Nowadays Rob gets it in wherever he can fit it in. He just released solo slapper Alice in Thunderdome on OK47 Records. Hail Mary Mallon’s sophomore drop, Bestiary, is looming (Nov. 11).
Rob, aka Bobby Freedom from the Bronx, is a funny guy and a good rapper. I’m convinced AiTD is his best work to date and if anything should be held in the highest esteem just for blessing us with a new Breezly Brewin verse. I have a feeling Aesop and Rob’s work on Bestiary will be bonkers. This is my interview that occurred with Mr. Sonic with the help of The Internet.