Open Mike Eagle – “Anime, Trauma, and Divorce” (Album Review)
The centerpiece of Southside native Open Mike Eagle’s new album is “Everything Ends Last Year” which revolves around the repeated phrase “It’s October and I’m tired.” It was written last October, after Eagle and Baron Vaughn’s Comedy Central series was not renewed for a second season. Other lines in the song allude to falling outs with fellow artists in the Hellfyre Club, and even his divorce which is explored further on “The Black Mirror Episode” where he lightly coats the truth in humor, blaming the show for ruining his marriage.
Open Mike Eagle has always been honest in his art, but it’s usually framed within the context of a persona or a community he’s a part of. His last full-length album, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, dealt with his childhood in Chicago, personifying the recently demolished Robert Taylor Homes and uplifting the imagination of kids like him that grew up there.
In Anime, Trauma, & Divorce, the subject matter is less imaginative and almost entirely devoid of metaphor. Eagle relishes in brief anime power fantasies which he cites as necessary for getting him through the bad year but always dismounts as himself, Michael Eagle.
Two of the songs on the album feature Eagle’s own son, Asa, who is already a hip hop head and following in his father’s footsteps as a prolific freestyler. Asa’s features are bright spots on an otherwise gloomy album, bringing a childish energy that cuts through Eagle’s grown man lamentations.
Most of the production comes from Caleb Stone, Frank Leone, and executive producer Jacknife Lee. Stone and Leone have both worked with Eagle before, and are probably pretty familiar to anyone that consumes independent, experimental, “art” rap, especially based in LA and Chicago. Jacknife Lee is a more unconventional collaborator, coming from mainstream pop and rock music like U2, Taylor Swift, and The Killers, but in the same way that Eagle’s wide range of influences never cease to surprise me, I am not surprised that this odd couple has successfully created a very cohesive, musically innovative, and lyrically inspiring rap album.
The “October” referenced by Eagle on “Everything Ends Last Year” may be of 2019, but again it is October and while I hope Mike Eagle had a better year than the last, I know that this year I too, am tired. And I can say with certainty, that no matter which way the election turns out, in November I will still be tired.
Favorite Tracks: “Sweatpants Spiderman,” “Asa’s Bop,” “The Edge of New Clothes,” & “Everything Ends Last Year,”
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