One of the last remnants of the Project Blowed school of emcees, LA’s Open Mike Eagle is quite easily one of its brightest stars. Catching our attention early on with songs that poked fun at hip-hop, such as “Rappers Will Die Of Natural Causes” and “Your Backpack Past”, not to mention “Billy’s Quagmire” with Blockhead, Mike has quickly become one of our favorite new artists to watch. Named by the L.A. Weekly as “the hottest thing in indie rap”, his new album, Dark Comedy, for Mello Music Group, almost acts as his official major-indie debut.
There couldn’t be a more apt title for this album, as Dark Comedy pretty much sums up Mike’s rhyme style, as the album includes several laugh-out-loud, rewind moments. Completely unpredictable, its unclear where he is going to take his next rhyme. Reminiscent of a Sean Price or MF Doom, yet its own thing entirely, Mike’s style is rooted in freestyle rhymes and incredibly hilarious. Take this entire first verse of “Golden Age Raps”, for instance:
“Fuck Redding, California, cause shit’s pretty racial there / I’m envious of anyone with full-grown facial hair / Yeah, I’m always in between haircuts / But FDR said it ain’t shit to be scared of / Huh, he must have never smoked herb / Been beaten by his dad or heard bad spoken word / I got a pretty mean overbite / I’m still trying to navigate the settings on my Focusrite preamp / Condenser mic attached with a c-clamp / Weed on the patio, chiefing under the heat lamp / Yeah, or sneak in with a g-pen / And take that shit to church and stay high all weekend / Yeah, I’ll fucking interrupt your telecast hella fast / in a blonde wig and blue eyed Ellen mask…”
Endlessly entertaining, much of the album plays out like this, referencing funny, forgotten pop culture references with sly lyrical wit.
“Doug Stamper”, which features a little help from comedian Hannibal Burress, is another stand out, as the duo host “The Advice Show”, giving unsolicited guidance which you may or may not want to take yourself. Later on “Jon Lovitz (Fantasy Booking Yarn)”, Mike outlines the over-promising and under-delivering of booking agencies, record companies, etc. In a sobering moment, he pulls back on “Idaho”, a narrative about a night of mistaken drunken driving, as the track builds to a disturbing crescendo.
Mike’s unapologetic, subterranean style is not for everyone, and is a huge departure from most modern hip-hop – both underground and mainstream. But that is what also makes it completely fresh and original from most anything else out there at the moment.
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