I wrote the last one of these columns almost a month ago, so this is really the five best videos of the last three weeks. Don’t worry, though. Not that many videos came out during the holiday, and most of the ones that did come out weren’t that good. Some of them were, though, including … More »
Open Mike Eagle’s cerebral, emotional concept album Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is one of the year’s best rap LPs. And it’s already produced a handful of music videos: “95 Radios,” “Brick Body Complex,” “No Selling (Uncle Butch Pretends It Don’t Hurt),” “Happy Wasteland Day.” Today, he’s got a new … More »
Streaming changed things. 2017 was the year that rap once again reaffirmed its stranglehold on the collective imagination of America’s youth. Like the moment when Billboard first started using Soundscan and inadvertently proved the massive popularity of N.W.A, the streaming services of the world showed just how powerful this music remains. Rap dominated streaming charts. More »
Open Mike Eagle releases his video for “Happy Wasteland Day” today, joining the many artists who have produced media within the past year in opposition to the current sitting “garbage king.” Directed by Ryan Calavano, the video is appropriately shot in a junkyard and features a few key elements of any good film/political crisis: fire, … More »
Earlier this year, Open Mike Eagle released a new album, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, and today he’s shared a seasonally appropriate one-off to accompany the latest episode of his ongoing tour documentary #DeadAss. The Halloween-flavored track is called “Dating Ghosts” and features the rapper talking about how he “ain’t never been … More »
“No selling” is pro wrestling parlance for refusing to act like your opponent’s offense is hurting you. Within wrestling, it’s generally considered bad form; you’re supposed to make your opponent look good. But some wrestlers use no-selling as a theatrical tactic. The Undertaker, the Road Warriors, and the Steiner Brothers are probably the greatest no-sellers … More »
Open Mike Eagle
Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
[Mello Music Group; 2017]
There’s a thin line between being underground and keeping your head in the sand. As the world of rap expands, its margins necessarily become more far-flung; amidst the genre’s expansion beyond the confines of a singular identity, its warring factions have increasingly defined themselves against, rather than alongside, one another. In refuting the notion of mainstream appeal, the personality and idiosyncrasies of the artist take priority — a victory for the individual, but also an easy path to excessive self-indulgence. It should come as no surprise that those most likely to rap about postmodernity are prone to replicating its solipsistic tendencies.
Brick Body Kids Still Daydream does no such thing. Rather than losing himself amongst abstraction, Open Mike Eagle’s work is rooted plainly in lived experience, cultivating an accessible appeal while clearly remaining a world apart from the listener’s own rapping abilities. Avenues for experimentation and rule-breaking are well chosen: Open Mike Eagle navigates the space between rapping and singing to far more pleasing effect than an attempt to push either to an extreme, and the production fully explores the possibilities of 4/4 time rather than doing away with it entirely. The “No Selling” beat recalls The Wu-Tang Clan’s “7th Chamber (Part II)” just enough to clarify the album’s position as a fresh entry along the linear progression of hip-hop rather than an outright rejection of the form.
The success of Brick Body Kids is that its world is not populated by its creator alone; Mike Eagle manages to balance the sense that he is speaking for many with the certainty that no one else could do it quite the same way. It’s a rare feat to be able to take a verse in the direction of “I’m grown so I’m always disgusted/ All these discussions online is mayonnaise versus mustard/ Mayonnaise people think French can’t be trusted/ Mustard people think eggs is all busted” (from “Daydreaming in the Projects”) and maintain the listener’s attention, let alone their credence. Yet, throughout the album, Eagle manages to inject novelty into 2017’s most worn-out declaration: things suck right now.
In fact, as the album goes on, one could be forgiven for escaping the present moment a bit. Lead single “95 Radios” is a wholesome, charming reflection upon simpler times with video to match (watch above), an easy jam that can turn any mood into the warm comfort of nostalgia. It doesn’t last. Immediately afterwards, the album closes with “My Auntie’s Building,” a dissonant moment of sublimated rage at the destruction of the Robert Taylor Homes, a federal housing project that serves as a setting, both implicit and named, for much of what Mike Eagle reminisces about in the album’s lighter moments. It’s the perfect end to the album, in the sense that the album’s end was inevitable; it’s the sound of waking up from a daydream and remembering that, yes, that bullshit is still going on.
It’s a huge day for new album releases, and we’ve collected most of the major titles here for your streaming pleasure. The list does not include some of the noteworthy albums that streamed ahead of release, including titles from Hundred Waters, Emily Haines, Washer, and Antibalas. More »
Later this week, the underground rap veteran Open Mike Eagle will release Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, a sort of concept album about the Robert Taylor Homes, the Chicago housing project where Mike Eagle spent a bunch of time as a kid. We’ve already posted the videos for the early tracks “95 Radios” and … More »
Nas proclaimed Hip Hop Is Dead 10 years ago. He had to raise the stakes on the album with a grandiose title and statement to start a conversation (and sell records). What he most likely meant, coming from the old-school ilk and seeing dance crazes take over the mid-aughts, is that lyricism is dead. More »