Malibu Ken Album Review

Malibu Ken was released in early 2019 but is not well known. Malibu Ken is the collaborative name for hip-hop legend Aesop Rock (not to be confused with A$ap Rocky) and psych-rock producer TOBACCO. Malibu Ken features ten tracks and runs for about half an hour, and every minute of it is a wild ride, especially the rapping from Aesop.

Aesop is best known for having the largest vocabulary in hip-hop, with over 7800 unique words used in his entire career. Each song showcases Aesop’s personality, and as the album progresses and the listener gets to songs like “Churro”, the funny tacks are funnier and more interesting. The track “Churro”—like many others—follows a story, and this story just so happens to be about bald eagle populations and an instance where the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania set up a live stream watching a couple of eagles just outside the city, only to have the eagles capture and eat a cat live on the air (Aesop spares no details). This track has very dark humor, and most songs on the album are pretty dark in general. Take for instance “Acid King”, a song about suspected satanist and convicted murderer Ricky Kasso, who killed his friend in the woods in Malibu, California way back in 1984. The song follows Kasso’s journey that lead him to the killing and is surprisingly informative and funny but in a very dark way. Aesop usually has very esoteric lyrics and has even had people question if they actually mean anything in the past, but on these few tracks he uses very clear language that allows the listener to easily follow along with the story, all while enjoying some of the interesting flows Aesop brings to the table (all of which are surprisingly catchy).

However, the production and “singing” ( I use that word very lightly) sections are the weak points on this album. Where some of the choruses are solid, such as “Acid King”, others are clunky, highly layered and digitized, such as “Dog Years”. While I understand the production and vocal effects are intentional, they just sound too weird to enjoy. The production overall is very lofi-retro and is very fun across the full project but stays pretty much the same the entire time. While I appreciate the vibe the album creates with this samey-same production, it also makes it kind of hard to listen to multiple songs back to back. Because of the lack-luster choruses and repetitive production, Malibu Ken is held back from accomplishing more.

Overall, this is still a really fun album, and although some of the tracks seem like they are only good for one listen, that one listen is loads of fun. But again, this album has a very dark, disgusting humor, and so it’s hard for me to recommend this album to anyone that I don’t know personally, so if you are interested in checking out Aesop’s technique, or the production is appealing, or you have fairly dark humor, then I recommend checking out this album.

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