Hail Mary Mallon – Bestiary
Reviewed By: Daniel Baldus
As painful as it might be to admit, sometimes rap music takes itself too seriously. For a genre with roots in flowing fun rhymes over smooth dance music, many of its modern interpretations feature heavy-handed morals delivered through oppressive dystopian imagery and brutal depictions of violence (See: Cancer For Cure, No Love Deep Web, Close Your Eyes And Count To F**k). The added social consciousness and moral implications are great for the medium as an art form, but tend to leave behind some of its history in the world of entertainment. If other rappers are the all-black protesters wearing heavy grimaces under gas masks, Hail Mary Mallon are the dudes streaking across town in clown shoes and ironic sunglasses.
Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic, and DJ Wiz make no bones about their intent; Bestiary is a fun album through and through. It kicks off with a sample featuring an upbeat woman urging listeners to “fantasize a lot” and “wear rainbows” before exploding into “Johnathan”, a song featuring one of the catchiest loops in hip-hop this year. Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic trade verses about a variety of topics over an infectious combination of bass drum and snare, complete with the line “I’m a beast: my motherf***ing dog got a dog” and a vocal apology from Aesop. Then, of course, it comes to its natural conclusion by turning into a running skit subplot featuring the Hail Mary Mallon boys attempting to save a bowling alley from financial despair by holding a fundraising concert. That should give you a good idea of what to expect here.
The rest of the album follows in similarly fun fashion, albeit with some clever twists on the formula. “Picture Day” burns out quickly on an awesome bass-infused groove, “Kiln” seethes in a hotbox of synths, and “4AM” pumps out one of the weirdest hooks to be catchy this year. Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic are consistently solid with their rhymes, offering up wordy verses that leak punchlines, alliteration, and multisyllabics. Some might find Aesop’s infamous tendency to delve deep into the thesaurus as an obnoxious gimmick, but it’s hard to get him wrong when he says “every couple summers, me and a couple hunters, like to roll in from the isle of astonishing motherfuckers”.
Bestiary is a blast, from its banging beginning to its hilarious bowling-alley-subplot end. It has a few ups and downs, (It sometimes feels like a constant struggle to reclaim the title of “Best song” from its opening track) but even its downs soar far above the downers in contemporary rap below.
Recommended tracks: Johnathan (1), Kiln (11), Krill (2)
FCC Violations: None (All songs are censored on the clean version. Do not play the non-clean version)
Recommended if you like: Aesop Rock, Run The Jewels, The Uncluded