9 June, 2010@1:23 am
Open Mike Eagle comes from the school of the west coast underground, studying under the tutelage of Project Blowed greats that came before him, such as Freestyle Fellowship. But for a scene that prides itself on how off kilter one can spit, Open Mike Eagle delivers a surprisingly down to earth, smart hip-hop record with Unapologetic Art Rap.
Sarcastically poking fun at the scene he comes from, Unapologetic Art Rap targets hip-hop as a whole, whether suggesting the underground is made up of humus-eating backpackers or attacking the mainstream for any number of the usual criticisms.
His unique, laid back style delivers a crisp, concise narrative, allowing the listener to hang on to his every word, best defined on songs like “Helicopter”, where he quite easily trades between heady philosophy and the public’s general apathy towards scary Facebook connections. He’s at his best when delivering straight-forward topical tracks, such as the faith-questioning “Easter Surgery” or the lush Exile produced “I Rock” where balances a day job while moonlighting as an emcee. “Unapologetic” (feat. Nocando) is quite possibly the album’s greatest track, as the duo trade rhymes that pinpoint exactly what is wrong with today’s brand of hip-hop music.
However the large amount of guests included on this album take away from Eagle’s self-assured solo moments. The aforementioned “Easter Surgery” (Feat. Serengeti & Jefferson DeJesus) trails off course once Mike is finished, while the Busdriver featured “Original Butterscotch Confection” attacks with an over-abundance of sensory-overload super-rhymes. “Mistakes” (feat. Alpha MC) merely plods along until Mike gets his time to shine, while the overstuffed “Go Home” does little to sell the audience on his entire Swim Team crew.
The other fault with Unapologetic Art Rap is the largely uneven production. Make no mistake – Open Mike Eagle is dope, however Exile seems to be the only producer on the album that can keep pace with this talented, progressive, interesting new emcee.
While these criticisms may seem harsh, it’s only because we see the raw talent in Open Mike Eagle and feel it shouldn’t be taken for granted. While we don’t expect new west coast underground emcee to come out the gate with an album produced by DJ Premier and J. Dilla, Open Mike Eagle is talented enough to deserve an equally yoked partner for a future collaborative LP. Perhaps Exile, Blockhead, or Madlib will step up to the plate for round two.
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