By Jose Mujica
April 3, 2019
For those unfamiliar with the man and the myth, the Chicago-raised now LA-based Open Mike Eagle is an alternative hip-hop artist that isn’t the most accessible artist for casual music listeners. His style requires your attention and is intended to provoke thought. Whether it’s to appreciate a particularly convoluted comedic metaphor or used to pull at one’s heartstrings, Open Mike’s expert use of diction and wordplay is his best asset and he knows how to make the best use of it.
His playful joking nature is obvious in his lyrics, but it works alongside a vulnerable and thoughtful sentimentality that endears him to the listener. He blends his passion for comedy and music together into his work to create a truly unique sound. While he doesn’t do technical stand-up, he finds himself opening up for comedians quite frequently and he references this connection with the title of his 2014 project Dark Comedy. In interviews he mentions how stand-up crowds are better positioned to pick up on the comedic delivery and punchlines in his dense rhymes sometimes more than a music crowd. While technically a rapper, Open Mike describes his style as art-rap and comes from the same school of other notable LA art-rappers such as Busdriver, Milo, and Nocando, known for their opaque lyrics, esoteric philosophical content and obscure cult fanbase. Unforgiving and unapologetic in his art, he tries to challenge his fans as much as he challenges himself in his projects. A far cry from radio-friendly pop rap, he flexes his multi-syllabic rhyme schemes and punchlines while simultaneously showcasing a raw and emotional vulnerability over off-kilter production that usually lands on the more experimental side of the spectrum.
No other project exemplifies this better than his latest offering, 2017’s Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, a concept album that remembers and revolves around the destruction of a Southside Chicago housing project while following the life of it’s young residents. The standout project masterfully wove through hilarious comedy bars to deeply emotional and resonant introspection, touching on some poignant political realities. A softer, understated delivery gave this project a more serious and solemn tone than his previous works and, Brick Body Kids made significant waves upon its release.
With more awareness for his eclectic and unique skill-set, Open Mike is poised to make the most of his ascent. He and Baron Vaughn’s new show The New Negroes, has been green-lit by Comedy Central and intends to feature a blend of stand-up comedy, sketch comedy and hip-hop in what seems like a natural fit. While he may be busy with the television gig, Open Mike doesn’t seem to have any plans to hang up the mic as he’s also released his latest EP What Happens When I Try To Relax in 2018. If the title is any indication, rest and relaxation doesn’t seem to come natural to the man himself.
Open Mike Eagle will be at The Evening Muse in Charlotte this Saturday, April 6.