|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|
|Open Mike Eagle is an odd dude, a nerdy cat, a weirdo, a rhymer who is more concerned with telling stories to a degree of specificity unseen in the genre of hip hop. The whole while he raps in his unmistakable baritone, conjuring lucid dreams of the Submariner, while approaching morals and ethics with Plato’s mind, he reminds us of just how weird he is. How weird all of us are. And while Art Rap and the entire alternative hip hop movement begin to foster strong roots, he’s standing somewhere on the fringe with a megaphone rhyming directly to the strange, the absurd, the playful, and the creative. Instead of aligning himself with the mythos of the comics of his youth, with the all-to-mainstream trend of identifying oneself as being from another planet (Weezy, Cudi), Open Mike blatantly and unapologetically let’s the public know he’s from right down the street. And he’s hosting one hell of an Art Rap Party.|
Open Mike’s candor differs from his peers and the only analogy would be to compare his approach to the music industry with how his music sounds. It’s extremely thought out, the instrumentals provide a melodious backdrop but in a chaotic manner. As if everyone in a crowded Mall cafeteria decided to bang their tables and hum in an impromptu round of show-tunes, and out of this charming din comes Mike Eagle’s calculated wit, his low-pitch is able to provide a dope emphasis on bars that are clearly heavily thought out.
“We tell on each other for 8 cent raises/ And all the comedians make Dane Cook faces/ And rap has no lyrics, just 8 hooks pasted/ New born babies are given Facebook pages/ Cos ever since birth, we’ve been prisoners in a meshwork/ There’s a War on Terror, but innocent people get hurt/ So now, Al-Qaeda is a system of internet jerks/ And Osama Bin Laden is in your extended network/”
Open Mike seamlessly weaves a tale of Orwellian outlook, with a sense of humor that is all too rare in rhyme-crafting. His uncanny ability to take a concept and show the duality: the ludicrous and the serious, all while making my toes tap something nasty is enough for me to herald Mr. Eagle as that dude. He’s the rhymer my people have been waiting on. For the blokes who vibe the outcast angle of indie rock but need more wordplay, more comic-laden jargon, more snide pop-culture references, Unapologetic Art Rap is your album.
The entire album is magnificently cohesive, and that’s including the chances it takes. Tracks such as, “Pissy Transmissions”, “Rap Protection Prayer”, “Mistakes”, and “Original Butterscotch Confection” showcase what the backpackers at heart are looking for: structure, syntax, metaphor, Wikipedia-level obscure references, simile, and more. We’re listening to an apparent wordsmith.
“There isn’t a market for weird rappers these days/ Got to support the careers of Clear Channel’s DJs/ Go write a rap about vagina meat/ I’ll help you find a beat! Cos nigga you just trynna eat!/ And fuck a clever rappin’ movement/ And say that you sold rocks, but never have to prove it/”
I don’t possess the literary talents to properly describe how that makes me feel. I’m simply ear-to-ear grinning knowing I’m not the only cat who feels this way. It’s no longer enough to pack a sheet of paper with magical wordplay, we need subtle intonation, we need eerie samples, we need off-kilter rhythms, in short: we need innovation. Eagle delivers consistently. There’s a reason this chap is currently my 2nd most listened to artist on iTunes. I can’t front though, I’ve got nasty folk-pop-rock roots and America is played around the Union offices like no tomorrow.
The pearl of the album is Unapologetic both in title and style. We’re thrown in to the deep end of the cultural pool. Here’s a song scribed solely for one demographic, the one that MTV would like you to believe doesn’t exist. The teenage black kid who isn’t selling dope, who doesn’t identify with Wacka Flacka in any manner, the young dude who has consistently been berated on not being hip enough, or black enough. This song is an epic in all ways, beginning with the structure of the piece, NoCanDo immediately begins his hasty dissertation and he’s damn angry:
“I’m underground man, like I’m beneath the streets/ I dress nice, but I ain’t no G-d damn sneaker freak/ I freestyle, if you need receipts, buy CDs from me/ These good-for-nothin’ scenesters treat me like a piece of meat!/”
Now, you’re going to have to grant me a pardon for the moment of supreme stannery I’m about to embark on. I’m going to leave a trail of breadcrumbs and hope I can find my way back…
This track is amazing. It’s beyond that. It defies common vocabulary, and I don’t have a common vocabulary. The set up is flawless, here’s a song that can attack multiple issues at the same exact time. Open Mike and NoCanDo can be rhyming about the abandoned black nerd demographic, about the lack of respect for Indie Rap, Art Rap, whatever, but the track culminates and manifests into something infinitely iller. This is speaking to everyone who has ever begrudgingly agreed that Lil Wayne is dope, to anyone who wanted to put on the Boondocks but settled because the room thought College Hill on BET was a good show. This is an anthem. I go ham to this song. I might need this to be my permanent walk on music.
“This goes out to all the adolescent negro lads/ Who make sketches and daydream the whole class/ In ’96 they would’ve been De La Soul fans/ In 2010, it’s My Chemical Romance/ Still rebellin’, since the first signs of intelligence/ (Today) shirt size is more relevent/ Tight long sleeves won’t disguise your melanin/ But it’s too late to lionize the four elements/”
He’s speaking to a culture that abandoned its most devout supporters. It’s comparable to Islam simply forgetting about Sufism. Nerdy black dudes have been the oil of the machine known as Hip Hop, and the entire culture up and forgot them, until now. I’m glad this album was made.
As I look down and realize my word count is now in the 1000′s, I should probably wrap this all up. Open Mike Eagle’s album Unapologetic Art Rap is a defining moment in time for this dude’s rap legacy. It shows immeasurable thought, and dedication that are largely lacking from many mainstream or underground artists.
The Whethermen’s Union gives Unapologetic Art Rap 4.75/5 Blood-Stained, Watchmen Smiley Face Pins. The highest rank an album has received yet.
Stay posted for an exclusive interview with the artist Open Mike Eagle for our bi-weekly, Fireside Chats installments.