Album Review | Malibu Ken

This album was released on January 18th this year. I’m expecting this to be the first great release of 2018. For those of you who don’t know, Malibu Ken is a duo consisting of legendary underground wordsmith Aesop Rock & electronic producer TOBACCO. I’m not super familiar with TOBACCO, so I’m not really sure how I’m gonna feel about the production on this project. I’m sure it’s at least decent though. I’ve listened to every single project Aesop Rock has released with the exception of his Appleseed EP from 1999. I’ve seriously never heard a bad song by Aesop Rock. His classic album Labor Days is incredible, and all his other albums are great too. I loved his rare debut album Music For Earthworms. His work with Rob Sonic as Hail Mary Mallon is really dope too, and I even like the album he did with Kimya Dawson as The Uncluded. I’ll post my rating of his entire discography tomorrow. It should be clear by now that I’m a huge fan though. Oh shit. I almost forgot to mention those Lice extended plays he did with Homeboy Sandman, which were fantastic. So yeah. I’m really looking forward to this. I think it’s gonna be great.

1. Corn Maze

This was the second single released from this album. This is my first time hearing it though. The production is actually really fucking cool. It has kind of an 8-bit video game soundtrack sound. I like the opening metaphor from Aesop where he calls himself the bat boy from the Weekly World News.

The first verse is really great. It features Aesop Rock’s signature esoteric word choices, but if you give it some thought you can understand what he’s trying to say. The lines at the end of the verse where he highlights his misanthropy and his love for his pet cat are dope.

I like wild orchids and neighbors with wide orbits
Electric fence and pets that tend to pretty much ignore us

The way the production kind of evolves throughout the song is really cool. I like the weird vocal effect Aesop Rock uses for the hook too. I just barely understood what he was rapping about in the first verse, but he completely lost me with the other two verses. They’re still really good. It’s just hard for me to understand the meaning of a lot of his bars. I like it though. There are a lot of cool lines.

Are we Donatello’s David or delicate Frozen Charlottes?
Even Davids know in art there often will be no catharsis
The voices in my head still talk tough
I go to bed stoned, I got some walls up

Overall, I really love this song. I like how the beat changes for every verse, and Aesop Rock killed it. This shit is dope af to me. The music video is pretty cool too.

2. Tuesday

Man, the first verse on this song is super entertaining lyrically. I love the way he’s describing the ghastly hygiene of the Malibu Ken character.

The dandruff in a shaken globe is fit to gild a manger
The pizza face is pepperoni, carbuncle, and caper
I’m bunions and contusions, bumps, lumps and bruises
Discoloring, and other things I can’t reach with a loofah

The production from TOBACCO is pretty nice. The hook isn’t bad at all. The best aspect of this track is definitely the actual rapping from Aesop Rock though. There are a lot of really engrossing quotables.

I do not open mail, I do not answer phones
The fridge is pretty much a home for mayonnaise alone
Watch a pocketknife surgeon cut a cyst out in the kitchen
It’s the cousin to acutely removing his own stitches in a pinch

I’m glad there are three verses on this track. Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded a fourth verse. Aesop Rock killed this shit. The background vocals during the hook have a strange vocal effect that sounds pretty good. I think that might be TOBACCO singing himself. This song is even better than the previous track honestly. I love this shit. It’s dope af.

3. Save Our Ship

The production on this track is pretty nice. Aesop’s flow on the first verse is really great. I feel like his flow greatly improved after Bazooka Tooth. I know that was over a decade ago though. This song probably has my favorite beat on the project so far. The first verse from Aesop Rock is great. There are some lines that I didn’t really get, but for the most part I understood it. That “middle finger like a meerkat” line was cool. This song definitely has the best hook so far too. The second verse was really dope. The third verse was really nice too. I feel like whatever he’s trying to say with this song completely went over my head though. The lines by themselves are pretty interesting, but I don’t get the overall theme of the song.

Spelling “Save Our Ship” with a stick in the sand
Pull a sock puppet off a 6-fingered hand
Everybody Wang-Chung with the spiritually bankrupt
Drank blood from the same cup he dump change from

I like how he referenced Wynken, Blynken & Nod, and the ghosts from Pacman. The Temple Run line in the second verse was really nice too. I feel like the more I listen to this song the more I’ll be able to wrap my head around it. I guess that should go without saying. I can tell it’s gonna be a while before I fully decipher what this song is about though. I’ll have to remember to check the Genius page in a few days when it’s been fully annotated. Anyway, I really like this track. The production is great, and Aesop Rock’s flow is top notch. There are a lot of really dope lines too. I love this track. It’s dope af.

4. Sword Box

This track has some pretty melodic production. It sounds like another old school video game soundtrack. Oh shit… The way it changes when Aesop Rock actually starts rhyming is fucking awesome. Okay, THIS is definitely the best beat so far. I love this shit. Man… I really can’t wait until the Genius page for this song is annotated because I feel like these lines are really poetic, but I can’t decipher them on my own.

What kind of bastion of trust
Hit the stage with a straight face and jacket full of doves?
Where daisy-chained hankies vanish into plastic thumbs
It was classic misdirection, soulless magic to the young

I think he’s trying to equate the act of rapping to performing magic tricks. That line about pulling a rabbit from a Stetson hat is what gives me that impression. I guess that last line that I quoted is literally saying the same thing too. I think he’s describing rappers when he says “the masters of deception.” This is really dope. Aesop Rock is one of those rappers whose music literally makes me feel smarter when I’m listening to it. The hook on this track is dope too. The production is great. I feel like I was starting to grasp what Aesop Rock was rapping about in the first verse, but the second verse completely lost me honestly. It was still a really entertaining verse though. The way the production switches up at the end of the track is really nice too. Honestly, this is my favorite song so far. This shit is dope af.

5. Dog Years

The beat on this track is pretty good. Aes’ flow on the first verse is fantastic. His flow on this track is better than it’s been on any other song so far honestly. The lyrics really went over my head though. I have pretty much no idea what he’s talking about. The hook on this track is pretty interesting. I think it’s sung by TOBACCO. He’s using a really bizarre vocal effect. It sounds like a robot singing. It reminds me of that robot character from Portal. What was its name? GLaDOS. I think that’s its name. Anyway, the second verse is pretty good. I have absolutely no idea what this track is about though. I didn’t even understand it a little bit. I think this is a good song. It’s definitely my least favorite track so far, but that’s not really saying much because every other song has been amazing. This shit is dope.

6. Acid King


This was the first single released from the album. I’m not crazy about it sonically, but it’s actually a really riveting song lyrically. The production is just decent to me, but Aesop Rock rapped his ass off on this track. Throughout the song, he’s retelling the story of the Acid King. “Acid King” is the nickname given to Ricky Kasso, a 17 year old Satan worshipping boy who dropped acid and murdered his friend Gary Lauwers in 1984. I’ve always found the stories of murderers to be incredibly interesting, so this song had me hooked. Aesop did a fantastic job describing what happened. I love the way the song is structured too. The entire track is just one long verse followed by a repetitive outro. This song is really awesome to me. I love it. This shit is dope af.

7. Suicide Big Gulp

The beat on this track is really dope. This is another one of the better beats on the project. The first verse from Aes was cool, but I had pretty much no idea what he was talking about. His flow was great though. The hook is really nice. I think that’s TOBACCO singing again. The vocal effect he utilized is so strong that you can’t really make out what he’s saying. It sounds good though. It’s actually probably the most entertaining hook so far sonically. The production incorporates a few more layers during the second verse of the song.

Death raft floating out to sea
Under a single flaming arrow down to overcook the meat
And if a silhouetted man is seen emerging from the flames
You should probably treat him different even if he look the same
He isn’t

I feel like I would enjoy this song more if I understood what the lyrics meant. I still really like it though. Aes’ flow on all the verses is really dope, and I like the production a lot. The hook sounds really good too. The lyrics are cool to me even though I don’t really understand them yet. I’m sure it’ll start making sense to me after my 100th listen. This is dope.

8. 1+1=13

This song has one of the more melodic beats on the album. The lyrics on the first verse of this song seem slightly less esoteric. They’re still kind of confusing though. The hook is pretty interesting. The muffled, electronic vocals from TOBACCO sound kinda like something I would hear from Francis & the Lights. I think the overall theme of this track is luck & superstition. The second verse was really great. I love the final verse too. Aes rapped his ass off on this track. This is one of those songs where I feel like I’m forming my own interpretation of the lyrics, but I’m not quite sure if it’s correct. I kinda like that about it though. This is another song whose Genius page I’ll have to study in a couple days just to get a better idea of what Aes is trying to say. I love this track already though. It’s dope af.

9. Churro

Huh… This song seems to be… A tribute to eagles? I’m pretty sure this is literally just a song about how great eagles are. He raps about how they were endangered, and then how humans discovered some in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I swear Aesop Rock is the only motherfucker who could write a song about fucking eagles and actually have it be entertaining.

You could be sitting in your office feeling testy, spilling coffee on a spreadsheet thinking ‘Jesus Christ, my life is dismal’
Two seconds later you could stare into a portal that reminds you there is more than what your awful nine to five permits you
Like a giant fucking eagle.

Damn. In the second verse he raps about a cat being eaten by an eagle “like it’s a fucking churro.” This song is weird as fuck honestly. I really like it though. Aesop Rock is such a complexed lyricist that he could rap about watching paint dry, and it would probably be done in a super poetic and entertaining way. I really love this track. It’s dope af.

10. Purple Moss

This song has another beat that sounds like it could be from an old video game. This is honestly probably my favorite beat on the album. It’s fucking awesome. Aesop Rock’s flow on the first verse is fantastic too. I love his pessimistic lyrics. He refers to himself as a mascot of Murphy’s Law. The robotic vocals from TOBACCO return on this song for the hook. This is a really fucking good song. The production is amazing, and Aesop Rock killed it. All three of the verses on this track are great. This song is awesome. I love this shit. It’s dope af.

This album is amazing. I legitimately think this is the best album Aesop Rock’s released since Labor Days. A lot of it probably has to do with the album’s short length. They really don’t give you a chance to get tired of anything they’re doing on this record. The electronic production is pretty interesting. There aren’t a lot of Hip Hop albums that have beats like this. The closest thing I can think of is Vince Staples’ Big Fish Theory, but that record wasn’t really that good. The electronic sound is done way better on this project. Aesop Rock is rapping his ass off on this project too. There’s not a single wack line. He just has a super interesting way with words. He never has any filler lines or says anything uninteresting. I feel like he has a really underrated flow too. He floats over these cold, robotic, mechanical sounding beats effortlessly. There’s not a single song that I didn’t really enjoy. It’s a super consistent album. I have no gripes with it honestly. I love this album. I won’t be surprised if this ends up being one of my top 5 albums of the year. This shit is dope af.

Favorite Song: Purple Moss
Least Favorite Song: Dog Years


Grade: A

One comment

  1. Loving this record. It sound so different from other Hip-Hop. I was curious when I first heard because Tobacco (Or Black Moth Super Rainbow) never had a hint of Hip-Hop, and I think that’s what makes it so different. You’ve got Tobacco doing exactly his thing, and Aes doing exactly his thing. It seems the big compromise was how much effects to put on the vocals. Tobacco naturally drowns vocals in the effects, and Aesop is notoriously sharp and clear. I’ve been listening to this a ton since the release.

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