The Hey Kirby Tour that touched down Saturday night at Montreal’s L’Astral was exactly the kind of light-hearted positivity I needed. Featuring American hip hop heavyweights Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic, and Homeboy Sandman, with DJ Zone on the ones and twos, the tour was named after Aesop’s massively catchy tune “Hey Kirby” from his latest album, The Impossible Kid.
Kirby also happens to be the name of Aesop’s cat. According to the song, after “fifteen years taking prescriptions” the rapper’s shrink advised him, “I don’t know, maybe get a kitten?” Just like that, Kirby the cat inspired a song, an adorable video with Aesop appearing as a sock puppet, and a North American tour. I love that while Drake rapped clichés about how much money he made, Aesop wrote an ode to his fucking cat, and at the same time totally dissed his shrink. This guy is my new hero!
The show itself was loaded with on-point rapping, huge beats, and some unexpected surprises. Decorated with faux wildlife, including a pair of deer, a fox, trees, shrubs, and an artificial bonfire, the stage resembled a park you might pitch a tent in and drink a few brews with friends. One of the animals collapsed onstage a few times from the weight of the beats, but the crew repaired it while Homeboy Sandman gave the busted deer props, saying “Let’s give it up for this deer that lost his life!” Sandman, kicking off the night with fast-scratching DJ Zone, threw down dark and gritty rhymes with his lightning-quick style. He had great rapport with the crowd, constantly engaging with the heads in the packed house. Sandman’s voice sounded a bit strained though, like he’d been shouting for a long time. I’m worried he might lose that voice if he doesn’t take it easy.
Headliner Aesop Rock didn’t have that problem: his flow was smooth, precise, and seemed effortless. Aesop’s lyrics are famously dense—he has the largest vocabulary in hip hop—but although I tried to catch some unusual parlance, the rapping was so fast I could barely keep up. Along with his partner in crime Rob Sonic, the hip-hop duo tagged back and forth all night, finishing each other’s sentences with laser-like precision and hilarious lyrics like, “He tried to sell crack to the Liberty Bell” from Sonic’s Alice in Thunderdome. Aesop and Sonic dropped a bevy of tracks from 2016’s The Impossible Kid (Bucket-tip: you can stream this gem of an album on YouTube accompanied by a dope animated version of The Shining). My bomb-of-the-night was the trippy “Rings” that sounded like the score of a dark, dystopian science fiction movie.
“Dorks” and “Hey Kirby” were obviously fan favourites; young, bearded hipsters sang along with every word (a few of them were rocking “Hey Kirby” before the show even started). Dang, son, I felt ancient partying with these young whippersnappers! But as the man Aesop said in “Lotta Years”: “The future is amazing, I feel so fuckin’ old.” Aesop made my night when he mentioned that he turned forty recently. Yes, the struggle continues for rappers, and music writers, even in our forties.
Written by Rob Coles
*edited by Kate Erickson