Band of the Day

2011.11.23

Hail Mary Mallon

Playful hip hop with rapid-fire lyric exchange and a wizardly DJ
I know a place hid away from the streets, from the cops and the heat and the fake-ass beefs, where the waves and the sand and the spraycans meet.
lyrics from Breakdance Beach

Hail Mary Mallon is a hip hop group formed by underground MC stars Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz. The supergroup is named after Mary Mallon, an Irish cook who was the first known healthy carrier of typhoid. Mallon infected 53 people while living in New York in the early 20th century. Hail Mary Mallon employs a variety of production styles, taking advantage of DJ Big Wiz's exceptional scratching and sampling skills. Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic have frequently collaborated on solo releases, and Hail Mary Mallon gives them the opportunity to join forces, trading barbs and playing off each others rhymes throughout the album. Hail Mary Mallon released their debut album Are You Gonna Eat That in May 2011 on the well-regarded underground hip hop label Rhymesayers.

Seminal underground hip hop fixture Aesop Rock and partner in crime Rob Sonic are back with Hail Mary Mallon. The side project is named after Mary Mallon, the infamous cook who spread typhoid disease in early 20th century New York. Despite the morbid moniker, Rock has brought some of his most playful and energetic work to date. With the help of DJ Big Wiz, the production is dense and dark, driven forward by fuzzy spurts of guitar, classic scratching, and shadowy atmospherics. Aesop Rock and crew use Hail Mary Mallon as an opportunity to let their hair down, playing around with various styles from 80s old school to more rock influenced productions. On “Breakdance Beach” Rock and Sonic revel in rhymes and rhythm, mischievously throwing lines back and forth that play off the song's title. “Um yeah, we got a playpen breach / the assailant a well known Ray-Bans thief” or “Barfly bolted by the waistband brief / eight cans deep in the same damn seat.” Their description of a breakdancing wonderland comes over an old school 80s hip hop beat that's completed by a Beastie Boys style vocoder interlude. “Meeter Feeder” combines insistent live drumming (or a very live-sounding drum machine) and apocalyptic synth squawks to describe paying off a parking ticket. For Rock, this is a doom-filled experience that elicits some pretty dense flow. The vivid images can be tough to unravel, but rewarding when you do. “Smock” has a slow, ambling beat that crystallizes into a compelling rhythm thanks to Rock and Sonic's quick-fire flow. With the ethereal female vocal sample and the MC's intense tone, this is one of the album's most powerful moments. Hail Mary Mallon accomplishes what the best side projects do, giving Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz the chance to stretch out and experiment without the pressure of releasing under their main groups.