For those not in the know, Hail Mary Mallon is the trio of emcees Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic with DJ Big Wiz. The production on Bestiary is mainly handled by Aesop, with Rob providing the instrumentals on a few tracks on the backend. This album is a follow up to their 2011 album Are You Gonna Eat That?, as one could deduce from Aesop’s opening bars on the lead single “Jonathan”: “Every couple summer, me and a couple hunters like to row in from the isle of astonishing motherfuckers”. Rob promptly follows this up with the quotable, “Machines cleaner than Three marines mothers rooms//Came in peace but leaving with keys to your VW”. This kind of humorous braggadocio is all over the album, with each line more quotable than the last. On “The Soup”, Aesop spits “I throw dice and darts, you dot your eyes with hearts”. On “Hang Ten”, Rob drops one of my favorite lines on the album, “I’m motherfucking bringing ugly back”. You know the lyrics on anything by Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic are going to make you dizzy, but it’s lines like these that make for a fun listen, as well as keep the attention of people who don’t feel like listening to a song twenty times until they understand it. Rob Sonic is always funny, but this is probably the wittiest Aesop ever been. Look no further for evidence than the laugh out loud satire “Whales”: “Money on my motherfucking mind//Cop five haircuts at the same time”. The two drop plenty lines that in all likeliness won’t be understood, but for the most part many of the verses are somewhat decipherable compared to other works by the pair. One line that particularly stands out to me, which I got with little decoding, appears on the album’s pinnacle “Kiln”. While rapping about selling out to the industry, Aesop spits “you’d like to think you’re cool enough to not care if you’re cool, but the spirit gets distracted, the flesh is fucking cruel”. If that line isn’t relatable then I don’t know what is.
On the production side of things, Aesop’s effort is arguably as good as on his most recent solo album Skelethon, if not even better. The album starts off with a bang and never lets up. The first four tracks feature some of the best beats of 2014. Aesop really shows off his creativity on the song “Dollywood”, in which the beat is set in a ¾ time signature. The best instrumental though is “Hang Ten”. The bass line gets my head nodding just thinking about it. While some of the other songs are more hard hitting, “Hang Ten” is smooth and laid back. After this track, the album goes into a series of interludes furthering the hilarious narrative of Rob and Aes saving a bowling alley. We get our first taste of a Rob Sonic beat on “Kiln”. Rob’s beats are noticeably less layered than Aesop’s, but they certainly get the job done, especially with the fittingly dark instrumental of “Octoberfest”. DJ Big Wiz goes bananas on this album, and one of the highlights is his scratch solo to close out the musical side of the album (Rob and Aes still have unfinished bowling business at this point).
Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic have perfect chemistry together, and on this album they show it. What was lacking on the first Hail Mary Mallon project is made up for on Bestiary; better beats, better hooks and more cohesiveness. The album trails off a bit towards the end, but the album’s short runtime keeps it from getting stale. Aesop and Rob are having fun, and they can’t help but rub it off on the listener. Longtime fans of the pair have another essential project in their catalogue, while listeners who are new to them will have a great starting point compared to the sometimes esoteric offerings from them in the past. Bestiary is funny while at the same time deep and replayable.
Reviewed by James Holland.