Out of the depths of weird rap arises a force more than just oddities in rhymes and quirkiness in beats. Hail Mary Mallon has prepared their second album Bestiary with Rhymesayers and now the trio consisting of Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz are making their mark on 2014, adding another surprisingly noteworthy release to a year of ups and downs for hip-hop. Grungy undertones accompany bizarre verses chock full of brain-busting, lyrical bantering and humorous lines, all wrapped within a sound unlike anything you’ve heard this year.
An overflowing chalice of 80s movie references and music comparisons are just the many subjects Rock and Sonic incorporate in their lyrically dense verses. Playing off each other nearly every step of the way, the two emcees show each other up in every which way; from unconventional similes and metaphors to downright stupefying bars that I’m pretty sure only they understand. Regardless of their totally left-field approach to rhyming (which should be expected from these normally atypical artists), they make it work in an almost unbelievable fashion.
Rapping about how manly they are, how proficient they are as rappers, and other unrecognizable subjects, Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic seem to reach into a bag and pull out some expectedly crazy (out there) bars.
“With a goat’s entrails in his baking cupboard/
And a gold-rimmed grail in his apron just for/
Occasion suppers and buying pockets/
Of lances and land for a flying ostrich.”
– Rob Sonic, from “Krill”
“Appetite of ten, hoodie on his mop/
Racing RC Cars, rubicon across/
Baby, party hard, copy, understood/
How are you today? Jolly fucking good.”
– Aesop Rock, from “Dollywood”
For the most part, these guys sound like they are rapping just to rap. They dish out eccentric rhymes that take reading along with google at your side to decipher. They jump from talking about Xanax to boat shoes, from throwing darts to spilling ketchup on a game console in a matter of seconds. For those looking for substance, there is actually a bit of that on Bestiary. For starters, a continuous skit threads the album together: the artists holding a fundraiser concert for a local bowling alley. While odd on paper and quirky in execution, it acts as a humorous connection between an otherwise loose set of songs. In addition to that, songs like “4AM” and “Whales” focus on singular themes, “4AM” being a narrative and “Whales” about what the rappers could buy with a lot of money.
If not the substance and content, then the rappers’ deliveries and even more so the beats are the saving grace of familiarity on this album. The production on Bestiary is particularly well done; without these beats, the album would really sound haphazardly constructed. DJ Big Wiz had his hand somewhere in this production presumably, definitely stepping up the traditional hip-hop element of the songs with his expert and calculated scratches. As a whole, the beats on this album are less weird than the rappers’ verses, but they stand out from traditional boom-bap or even the new wave of warped, electronic-influenced trap. The beats on the album are grimy, focusing on low-ends like heavy kicks and grinding bass, but also incorporating buzzing ambiance and progressive drum patterns. Nearly every song induces a head-nod in some form, be it by the clack of filtered snares or the emcees’ strong rhythm-based flows, Bestiary is guaranteed to get listeners moving at many points throughout the course of the fourteen-track project.
Bestiary is a strong follow-up to the hip-hop group’s 2011 debut album Are You Gonna Eat That? Hail Mary Mallon made Bestiary out to be a display of their sheer stamina and skill as artists, rhyming on the album’s opener:
“Every couple summers, me and a couple hunters/
Like to row in from the isle of astonishing motherfuckers/
Machines cleaner than three marines mothers rooms/
Came in peace but leaving with keys to your VW.”
In more ways than one, Bestiary succeeds at trumping contemporary hip-hop releases, due in part to its eclectic form and presentation. This is a fun record, plain and simple; the high replay value adds to the entertainment value this album possesses. Furthermore, the internal rhymes, the call and response verses, the dynamic production and banging instrumentals all add up to an exciting adventure through the minds of some of hip-hop’s underrated stars. Despite the difficulty in understanding what they mean when rapping bars about Rick Moranis and being at the top of the food chain for example, the effort is apparent and perhaps with more deliberation, a general comprehension of the rappers’ left-field references can be achieved.
With a slew of standout tracks, especially the two singles “Jonathan” and “Kiln,” Bestiary gives other 2014 releases a run for their money. Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz produce a stellar effort as Hail Mary Mallon and Bestiary is a somewhat anomalous release that is sure to lure in anyone who tunes into this curious work of art.