Pro tip: If you're going to interview a rapper, and you're a fan of that rapper, don't tell them. You want the interview to sound like a conversation between two humans, and it's hard to have a casual conversation when one of those humans is worried the other human is going to ask them for an autograph.
When I met Aesop Rock I did not follow my own advice. I couldn't help myself.
Aesop Rock is literally one of the reasons I fell in love with hip-hop. I remember the first time I heard him, listening to his Labor Days album at the Amoeba Music in San Francisco, way back when being able to listen to albums at record stores was a big deal. Without exaggeration his music changed my idea of what hip-hop could be, what was possible when words and beats were combined, and since that fateful first day I've spent countless hours with his voice echoing in my head, having imaginary conversations with him about the meaning of his music.
So yes, when I finally did get the chance to have that conversation with him, I'll admit it - I may not have thrown him in the trunk of my car, but my inner-Stan did come out a bit. As soon as I saw him the questions started pouring out of me, I essentially forget to really even "begin" the interview, but I was able to hold it together enough to get some good details about his upcoming album:
I really wanted to spend the next hour asking him to explain the lyrics on "Float," but since that seemed too fan-ish, instead I stumbled around a question about what he feels like is the best song he ever wrote, a cliched question that somehow ended up becoming a fascinating conversation about what it means to be a successful artist and his struggle to be happy. It's strange hearing that your heroes don't feel like heroes, but that kind of willingness to admit his vulnerabilities is exactly why Aesop is one of my heroes.
In my head I was going to talk to Aesop Rock, learn the secret of life and we would become best friends. That didn't happen, because that was a completely ridiculous thing for my head to even imagine. What I got instead though was something better. I got to meet Aesop Rock the real person, I got a dose of inspiration from our conversation, and yes, I got to tell him how much his music has meant to me. It may not have been my most professional interview, but the day I no longer feel like a fan, the day this really is just a job and not something I get nerd-level excited about, that's the day I quit. And as Aesop said, I'm in too deep to back out now, so I guess I'll just have to be a hip-hop fan for life.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]