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Aesop Rock's "Shrunk" is a Painfully Honest Depiction of Therapy

The song and video may be playful, but the experience they depict is far too common.

One of my favorite things about Aesop Rock has always been his ability to use his vast vocabulary and masterful symbolism to occasionally describe things that would otherwise seem mundane. 

Aesop’s latest album, The Impossible Kid, is a brilliant display of the very skill that not only makes his music so fun to listen to, but also makes it, at times, incredibly relatable.

Today (October 12), Aesop Rock released the video for “Shrunk,” one of the many standout cuts from The Impossible Kid, and as is true of Aesop’s best material, both the song and the video hit close to home for me.

The subject matter of the song itself—Aesop’s personal experiences with psychotherapy—is relatable to a surprisingly large portion of the country, as one in five Americans experiences some form of mental illness in their lifetimes, myself included.

As someone who’s frequented county or state-funded mental health facilities for talk therapy throughout my life, Aesop’s experiences with convoluted medical history forms, anxiety-inducing waiting rooms, and uninspired, incompetent therapists in “Shrunk” transport me back to many of my own lunch-free afternoons.

My social a sudoku / My age is obscure / My in-case-of-emergency is in the daisies chasing birds / Employed by trillionaires with perfect teeth and pores, and people who open doors for the people who open doors / My medical history is a course at SUNY Buffalo / Charlatan psychiatry and troubleshooting undertow

The visuals—and even the song itself—are metaphorical enough on the surface to evoke a lighthearted assessment of the situation, but as I studied the lyrics to the track I recognized a despondency that also resides within myself, one that’s fueled by the concept of mental health services costing money in the first place.

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That pretty penny turn the prickly into Benji / If you save up all your winnings then you get to count your blessings

While psychotherapy is claimed by many in the psychological community to potentially be more cost effective and more successful than medication, often times patients are relegated to what their health insurance will cover, or what the state or county provides when health insurance is non-existent.

In either case, what these options often afford is a bare-bones operation with more focus on dollars and cents than the actual well-being of the patients, with a cookie-cutter approach to mental health that points to a clear disconnection from what it's actually like to suffer from some of these illnesses. 

She said, "When you start getting all expressive and symbolic, it's impossible to actualize an honest diagnostic." / I said, "When you start getting all exact and algebraic, I'm reminded it's a racket, not a rehabilitation"

While artists like Isaiah Rashad, Kid Cudi, and others are still fighting a battle to see mental illness more heavily represented in hip-hop, Aesop Rock shines a light on the actual system towards which we're actually referring those afflicted.

Of course, there are plenty of facilities that are operating the right way, and there are many resources for those who can’t afford the top-notch care that affluence affords, but for me personally, the experiences detailed in Aesop’s latest offering are far too common.


By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.

Photo Credit: YouTube



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