|MH-269 Open Mike Eagle - Unapologetic Art Rap
Los Angeles MC Open Mike Eagle makes good on all three words in the title of his debut full-length, Unapologetic Art Rap. He’s unapologetic for being different and unrepentant in its his pop-culture criticisms. He is surely artistic, drawing on influences from Pavement to De La Soul to TV On The Radio and reshaping them in his own image. Which leads finally to rap. On his first album, Open Mike Eagle sounds like a seasoned veteran, filling every bar with brilliant wordplay and effortless West Coast flow. He is aided by guests Busdriver, Nocando, Serengeti, Alpha MC, and his crew the Swim Team, and has a team of producers the includes Alwayz Prolific, Maestroe, and L.A. heavy-weight Exile, but the album is clearly an Open Mike Eagle showcase. Unapologetic Art Rap may very well be looked back on as the album that kicked the door open on an impressive career.
|This is the best album of the year that have not heard. You should hear it. - Passion of the Weiss / It's all quite impressive. This may indeed be Art Rap but it needs no apologies. - Vue Weekly / I promise you this, listen to "I Rock," "Mistakes" (feat. Alpha MC) and "Go Home" (feat. Swim Team) for the finest representations of taxonomic boom bap rap. - Impose|
|Unapologetic Art Rap is the most mature, self-assured debut album I’ve heard since Illmatic.|
I know – “BLASPHEMER, YOU ARE!!!” – is screaming through your brain like a date rape freight train. After you calm down and listen to the canvass painted on by the man with the talons, the frenzied, fan boy rage will have subsided enough for you to observe the future of rap through a new, burgeoning lens. Plain and simple: Open Mike Eagle has, by himself, restored the luster to Project Blowed. And in a larger context, Los Angeles as a trailblazing galaxy of gregarious gangsters and humble hardrocks. Trumping all of these accomplishments, though, is his bombastic escape from the shadow of Abstract Rude.
Whenever OME’s name is referenced, comparisons are immediately drawn between him and Ab Rude. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not the worst thing in the world if you’re a rapper. However, in order for an artist to truly be able to thrive and cut the umbilical creativity-commonality cord, they must be identifiable, self-identifiable and viable. OME decisively establishes himself as his own man and a fore bearer of the new-new-new school. Class is in session, too. A bold warning I’ll undoubtedly be mocked for: THIS IS NOT AN ALBUM FOR DUMB MOTHER FUCKERS. If the last book you read was authored by the modern day warrior scribe Tom Clancy or the last album you stole from your ex-girlfriend’s iPod was anything with the name Gucci Mane attached, delete this before you download it.
OME is vitally aware of this and plays it to his benefit on the tongue-in-cheek opener “Art Rap Party.” The hook? “Ain’t no party like an art rap party ‘cuz an art rap party’s so smart.” Smarmy sandwich anyone? Anticon and all of it’s off shoots and all of their off shoots tried this and failed, some valiantly and some by way of Valium. Humble arrogance is a beast under the control of a laser-focused, self-aware, self-deprecating microphone controller the likes of OME. The sheer number of quotables is staggering. “Freak Flag” is the after party to UAR’s intro. Accompanied by an ill hook Mike ponders:
Son of a preacher man/Dancin’ like peter pan/Suckin’ on a thermal meter to see where my fever lands/Should I call the doctor or just dial the Reefer Man?/Either plan is decent, I just wish to breathe again
Infuckingdeed. If you’ve yet to peep “iRock”, an OME staple, it wins 365-days-a-year and then some. I’m glad the song finally finds a permanent address in this neighborhood. “Rap Protection Prayer” finds OME fighting victoriously against a sickeningly, gets under your skin, guitar riff and bringing it all together by using a surprisingly infectious hook as the glue. Although I’m not an admirer of men singing in the nefarious world of underground rap (it still exists!), his harmonizing in the last minute is a welcomed finisher. “Helicopter” is a frenetic, violently oscillating trek that concludes with the Talon Man annihilating the final minute. “Mistakes” follows and features the masterwork’s first guest Alpha MC. In his own right Alpha MC has the credentials, but this is his patna’s playground and he is vastly overshadowed by the eagle’s wings. Is it possible to dislike a song containing the line,
go write a rap about vagina meat
Is it? The goofy ending is a nice touch, too.
“WTF is Art Rap?” is a hands down impeccable interlude. First of all, the beat is one of those pitched-down, big, banging boat trips into the harmonic gut of the producer. The show’s star, OME of course, is mocking Maxwell and D’Angelo and their mass marketed, faux-sexuality. Whether he intended to or not, over the course of this interlude he essentially sums up hip hop as a whole remarking:
yo, i’m about to aggressively point out my favorite elements of this van gough painting, (AND BATTLE RAP OVER WINE AND CHEESE) the winner gets a $50 whole food gift card and six american apparel t shirts
Interludes are somewhere near impossible to pull off properly and this exceeds those standards. Wasting no time we trudge back into the thickets and meet the demolition duo that is the City of Lost Angels’ Nocando, the album’s second guest, and OME. “Unapologetic” is a shred session reveled in by two friends capable of spitting syllabic circles around the world’s most revered, meta-battle rappers who will never successfully transition from one night stands to franchises. While the beat is shifting underneath the pair like holographic disco frisbees, Nocan and the Talon Man are blatantly bringing race to the forefront and scoffing at how it translates in the world they find themselves trapped in. OME’s trademark syrup speed in full-force he delivers this devastating payload into the center of hearts the world round:
Scenes built on the backs of black rappers/Somehow, When I’m askin’ for cash you can’t answer/The same folks that shackled my ancestors come to watch us battle and cackle like Fran Drescher/That’s the demographic since it’s been adapted/Bottled up and sold in some old nigger magic
Get some. Coupled with Nocando’s daggers, this track is the true samurai. “Pissy Transmissions” I could live without if I had to, but it’s OME inebriated narrating a classic blues break with a tale of the woes a woman can cause. When we finally meet guest number three, he comes to us in the form of West Coast legend Busdriver. His cameo is of much importance because it again does what a guest spot is supposed to do: LET THE STAR OF THE SHOW SHINE. I’ve seen Busdriver perform live and he is the embodiment of what any and every MC should aspire to. He’s a nuclear bomb inside a nuclear bomb and the fact that OME has the chops to easily go toe-to-toe with him speaks powerfully of his range. They’re two freak show rappers and are unafraid to announce it.
“Partly Cloudy” is a worthy B-side to “iRock.” Although it starts off with startling similarity, it rapidly gains its own personality, Another brick in the wall cementing the West Coast’s relevance as a warp zone of forward thinking. “Easter Surgery” avoids the coming-of-age cliches that cloud so-called “religious raps.” Mike points to the pitfalls and popularity that all too often blur the line between belief and blather. Preachy at parts, I’m guessing anyone who listens to it will instantly identify their own connection to the subject matter. “Garbage Man” and “Mole In Your Ministry” are almost one extended version of the same song. OME structures these conceptual gems and polishes them until they sparkle in the light of day. Staking his claim in the stream of conciousness category he unloads on topics as farflung as veganism and classicism without projecting the energy of a sign-waving douche bag. An amazing feat in 2010.
“Go Home” is this journey’s finish line. Swim Team slice-and-dice their way through yet another impossible-not-to-nod-your-head-to beat. It’s reminiscent of a lighthearted posse cut that plays during the credits of some cult classic, nineties teen movie. One of the ones you sleep on until it grabs your attention one day.
Despite the advance copy, there are no production credits I could find for each individual song. I will say, though, whoever produced this album and participated in its engineering is who I want to hear more from. Aurally thick is the only way to describe this album. Between the vocals and the dense, multi-layered production, headphones IS A MUST. Whatever the Talon Man tries next, I’m joining the National Audubon Society to keep tabs. 10/10. - Steady Bloggin'