One of the most prominent, and well- known underground rappers of the last 10 years, Aesop Rock, has teamed up with Grammy Award- winning folk singer, Kimya Dawson, to form the group, The Uncluded. The term, uncluded, was first coined by San Francisco artist, Michael Bernard Loggins, meaning “keeping things you don’t appreciate out of your life.” Aesop initially reached out to Dawson via email as a fan of her music. The duo would later collaborate on an art- inspired blog, 900bats. From there, their working relationship birthed featured songs on each other’s solo albums, and ultimately transformed into The Uncluded, with their debut album, Hokey Fright, released in May of 2013 under the Rhymesayers’ Label.
Like most debut albums, Hokey Fright struggles at times to claim an identity. However, their identity can be an extremely ambiguous topic considering their completely different backgrounds. Aesop, known for his unique voice and intellectual wordplay, has been delivering excellent rap productions for a select group of alternative underground rap fans, closely associated with the likes of Atmosphere and Living Legends. Meanwhile Kimya Dawson, has released a critically acclaimed children’s folk album, ALPHABUTT, but got her big break when her music was featured in the breakout movie, Juno. The duo’s different backgrounds is, of course, the major catalyst for the album, as evident on the second track, “Delicate Cycle”, which is unquestionably Hokey Fright’s best track. “Delicate Cycle” starts off with Aesop coming in strong with an urbane rhyme, over a soothing guitar strum, presumably by Kimya, who delivers a folk-inspired rap towards the latter half of the song. Although a significant portion of the album follows this gaffe- proof formula, it is when the duo deviates from that recipe where Hokey Fright runs into a few problems. One must remind themselves when listening to Hokey Fright, there just are not many, if any, folk/ rap groups out there, making this album by definition, experimental. The Uncluded used this album as a springboard for creative material, however, with that musical leap, comes head-scratching tracks such as, “Superheroes” , “WYHUOM”, and their attempt at more traditional hip hop track, “Tits Up”.
The Uncluded will be spending all of their summer touring the United States, and hip hop fans should feel privileged, as listeners, to hear this combination of sound at a live venue. Another resulting component will be the duo continuing to contract chemistry and grow as a group, as one would hope further collaborations are in store. Hokey Fright is a great debut showing for The Uncluded, and will be interesting to see if other alternative rappers will seek to mimic this combination on a larger scale, such as an album in the vein of Hokey Fright. One thing’s for sure, Rhymesavers, already considered one of the most critically acclaimed underground rap labels, has another artful showpiece to add to its stellar catalogue.