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Hail Mary Mallon

Are You Gonna Eat That?

Rating: 3.6/5.0

Label: Rhymesayers

Irish cook Mary Mallon, AKA “Typhoid Mary,” was known as the first carrier of typhoid fever in the United States. Bringing the disease with her after she moved to America in the late-1800s, her profession caused the pathogens to spread to at least 53 confirmed victims before she was forced to spend the rest of her life in quarantine. While not the most standard inspiration for an indie hip-hop supergroup, this title is far from the strangest choice in rappers Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz’s careers, so adding the namesake of one of American medicine’s most tragic figures doesn’t seem too left-field. All former members of fallen indie rap label Definitive Jux, the trio successfully recreate their on-stage chemistry with their Rhymesayers debut, Are You Gonna Eat That?, and the results are more than satisfying.

With Aesop Rock being the flagship artist of the aforementioned folded Def Jux imprint, this first release since his 2007 critically-acclaimed None Shall Pass marks his first foray into a group endeavor. Fortunately, Rob Sonic (one-time member of early-2000s critical darling Sonic Sum) knows all too well how to make a group-minded full length as Are You Gonna Eat That? caters to both of their strengths and shows us sides of the two only hinted at on previous projects. By alternating production duties, both share a vision for the project that DJ Big Wiz helps weave together through the best turntablism on a rap record since the last Eyedea and Abilities album. Unlike most of todays rap crew releases that are transparently assembled via emailed Pro-Tools sessions, the writing here sounds like the work of two longtime friends truly collaborating. From their verses paralleling one another on “Church Pants” to the old school call-and-response of “Grubstake,” the members of Hail Mary Mallon are refreshingly far more interested in their sum than trying to outshine each other as parts.

What longtime Aesop Rock fans may find off-putting, but ultimately welcome, is the happier tone of the record. While he’s always had a certain cynical mystique, songs like the album highlight “Breakdance Beach” (a fast-paced post-apocalyptic sunglasses-heist jailbreak song inspired by a family photo of 12-year-old Rob’s reluctant trip to the beach) brings his quirky sense of humor to the forefront. Not to be outdone, Rob Sonic’s penchant for punchlines leave the listen with a plethora of quotables, namely on “Garfield” where he plans to “maul cops like Paul Blart.” Even when the subject matter turns grim, the duo’s sharp writing and strong vocal performances give the album an unshakable feeling of genuine fun. With DJ Big Wiz’s biggest contributions stemming from seamlessly scratching hallmark samples from the genre’s beginnings into the very forward sounding soundscapes of the record, Are You Gonna Eat That? succeeds in carrying the Definitive Jux spirit of matching rap’s traditional values with constant innovation. Frantic, focused and fun, the album is everything Beastie Boys’ Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2 should have been. As infectious as its namesake’s disease, Are You Gonna Eat That? is a certified carrier of sizzling sinister summer fun.

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