There’s something very satisfying about buying a cd from the recording artist him or herself straight out of those 25 units cardboard boxes. A smiley Open Mike Eagle sold me his 2011 album Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes.
I was buzzing having just witnessed an evening of LA indie hip-hop collective Project Blowed performances at the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard. Afterwards outside the venue a river of hip-hop artists exited laughing, congratulating each other and making plans. It looked like a true community, one in which you’re allowed to be yourself.
And thanks probably in part to Project Blowed’s license to be yourself Open Mike Eagle has had space and encouragement to develop and experiment.
Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes is his 2nd full-length release and it is very nearly a flawless album.
It is arty but it’s not pretentious. In fact it feels candid even exposed. Mike is dead smart. The title track of this record is quite profound and sad and funny and understated.
The track ‘Nightmares’ is well-executed stream-of-unconsciousness rap with wonderfully sparse phrasing and an unforgettable hook.
The track ‘NH2 (grins and lies)’ which splashes through some sensitive racial issues concludes with an Obama impersonator critiquing Mike. On ‘Why Pianos Break’ featuring P.O.S. we hear Mike’s signature sung rap vocals used to hypnotic effect. I, for one, am not AT ALL partial to sing-songy-raps. In fact they tend to make me wince in pain. ‘Sung rap’ is frequently twee [or cutesy], not in key, trite and/or boring. When Open Mike Eagle finds the right melody it is like Ready Brek for the soul.
Since ‘Rapper Will Die…’ Open Mike Eagle has put out an album called 4NML HSPTL via the Fake Four label and a number of E.P.s, which are available here http://openmikeeagle.bandcamp.com – ‘Middling’ on the free E.P. ‘Sir Rockabye’ is worth a listen.
Here’s brand new track ‘Qualifiers’:
Open Mike Eagle is a rap elevator: he’s soulful and cerebral, he’s experimental enough to actually fall flat on his face musically at times, he’s self-deprecating and honest, he’s earnest and ironic. And for visionaries that want to change the world little by little, hearing Mike’s voice somehow makes you believe that you’re not crazy – you’re on the right track.