Artists you should know: Black Aesop

The Fresno BeeAugust 14, 2013 


Derrick Mcelroy, aka Aesop, aka Black Aesop, plays Friday at the Cellar Door in Visalia.


Derrick McElroy is the kind of guy you want in the local music scene: A performer who is equally at home on stage and behind the scenes.

As a musician, he's toured nationally and internationally. He also works as a sound engineer and local promoter. In 2000, he worked to create a local musicians guild.

These days, he's working on a new EP, hosting weekly events around town and keeping up his performance schedule (he opens for hip-hop duo Mobb Deep in September and plays Friday at Visalia's Cellar Door).

The Bee asked McElroy about his career and the state of hip hop in Fresno.

What's your performance name? I've seen it a few different ways.

Black Aesop or Aesop Fables.

How long have you been a rapper and how did you get into the scene?

I am not a rapper. I rather consider myself a MC/musician. The term rapper is more for the radio stuff. I have been rhyming since '95 and released my first full-length album, "Demonstration," in '96. I put the cassette tapes (back then) in Amoeba records in Berkeley and kids started buying them, as well as hanging out on Telegraph and selling them to people passing by. Then I joined Living Legends and the rest is history.

Living Legends was an underground rap collective that had some notoriety. How did that experience inform what you're doing now as a musician?

Living Legends is the back bone to who I am as an artist and musician. We went from nobodies, to being called the fathers of "underground music." In our first year we traveled the globe, including Japan and Europe, and gained respect from artists and fans all over the world. Do-it-yourself music is what we were known for and still are.

Tell us about the new EP and the music you are making now.

My self-titled EP is definitely a departure from my old sound but has a very similar feel that fans of mine will dig into. I have seven full-length releases, so I felt it was time to change things up a bit. Expect some rock/punk-influenced songs as well a some very jazz-heavy ones.

What is the status of the hip-hop scene in Fresno?

Fashawn is where I want to see our scene headed. He is super talented and a very humble guy. His music is next level and this is what we need from Fresno to get truly recognized as a place for great hip-hop music. Gangsta music is the norm here, and most of it is terrible. We do have Planet Asia, Populus, Halo the Human and a few other up-and-comers that are the cream of the crop of good hip hop.

Did I miss anything?

Support local music and events by going to shows and spreading the word! We need all of us as a community to make the scene grow and flourish. Love your city and the people in it, and you will see a positive change soon.

Know a local band or musician more people should be familiar with? Send details to Joshua Tehee, or @Joshuatehee on Twitter.

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