Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM


Rooted in New York | “By The River” by Aesop Rock


Aesop Rock has been part of the New York hip-hop scene for decades and released many records essential to underground hip-hop. “By The River” adds to his phenomenal discography. Raised in Long Island, New York, Aesop Rock’s music shares the East Coast feeling and identity, along with some truly intriguing takes on hip-hop. Much of Aesop Rock’s catalog is deeper than meets the eye. Listeners may love the plethora of words Aesop Rock likes to use in his music or the dense and frequent hidden meanings in the lyrics. 

The track begins with a smooth beat, easygoing with horns and soft drums in the background. The beat oozes jazz influence — something that is deeply ingrained in the history of New York. Aesop Rock begins to rap:

“I like rivers, I like rivers /

Sailboats, fisherman, skinny-dipping swimmers /

Kids turning rocks over catching lil’ critters /

Eagle in the pine tree eyeballing dinner.”

Straight away, a beautiful scene of an active day on the river is painted. I truly feel that a whole landscape is unraveling before me. First, a river, then people, boats, bridges, the sky and everything comes to fruition right in my head. The flow is quick and continuous — images rushing through my mind. There is so much contrast between the soothing beat and the hard, fast-paced rapping of Aesop Rock. The song is only 2 minutes and 37 seconds, yet it feels like much more with the bombardment of detail that is delivered to the listener. 

The interesting juxtaposition of this song is what really sells it. It’s not typical hip-hop; it screams grit and grimy in the vocals but calm and relaxing in the beat. I become increasingly more intrigued with every listen. The song feels classic in the rhyming, flow and wordplay. Yet, the track still feels fresh and innovative through this beautiful beat and production.This track is like a piece of abstract art: different from the typical sounds of hip-hop but still fun and colorful as a whole. Opposed to much of his past works, this song is not meant to be analyzed. “By The River” is simple, a bit satirical and just meant to be enjoyed. 

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