|Give Open Mike Eagle credit for truth in advertising: his Unapologetic Art Rap delivers exactly what it promises. That wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing – lord knows there are more than enough smug, pretentious artistic experiments littering the hip-hop landscape already. Thankfully, this particular brand of art rap has little, if anything, to apologize for.|
Open Mike Eagle comes off as the type of rapper who can recite the lyrics to not only Deltron 3030 and the entire Kool Keith catalog, but also the oeuvres of The Pixies and Pavement. As a matter of fact, “Pissy Transmissions,” one of Unapologetic Art Rap’s most distinctive tracks, finds him flowing over a live Stephen Malkmus track. Both artists sound surprisingly at home in each other’s company, as Eagle lines like “Bought you an aardvark instead of an anteater / You pleasured yourself with electrical ass tweezers” might easily be mistaken for Malkmusian nonsense.
That talent for absurdity defines the album, along with an intelligent wit that never takes itself too seriously. The opening “Art Rap Party” is a witty send-up of stereotypical “in da club” tracks, detailing a highbrow hang-out where rappers play Taboo and discuss Bloom’s taxonomy over cocktails. “Original Butterscotch Confection” rides a "Sesame Street" sample and an old school De La Soul vibe deep into Bat Country. “Helicopter” imagines a not-too-distant future as horrifying as any Mad Max movie (“Britney wins the 20-and-12 election / The Green Party candidate was a worker for Exxon”).
Eagle also goes deeper than just playing the educated weirdo role. The eternal artistic bugaboo of working a day job gets a thorough going-over on “I Rock” (“I gotta wait until nighttime to rhyme in ciphers / My supervisor’s always asking why my eyes are tired”). The single-ready “Unapologetic” serves as both an art-rap State of the Genre (“My little brother never heard of Little Brother / ‘Cause the girls in the video kept they nipples covered”) and a well-deserved Soulja Boy dis track.
All told, Open Mike Eagle pulls of a pretty neat trick. He’s created a distinctive sound that’s every bit as arty as the album title claims, yet never devolves into obnoxious know-it-all-ism. In the spirit of Del the Funkee Homosapien and Prince Paul, Unapologetic Art Rap is evidence that it’s still possible to create a hip-hop album that’s smart, fun and just plain weird as hell all at the same time. - Made Loud