There will always be a faction of ceaselessly enraged backpackers wearing faded, oversized tees from their defunct indie rap label of choice. "Real hip-hop" will continue to be their rallying cry and their golden age will forever be the late '90s through the early aughts, a time when the word "underground" still carried some semblance of totemic weight. Los Angeles based, Chicago bred rapper Open Mike Eagle emerged from said underground without the grating delivery or myopic rhetoric. Instead, he remains soft-spoken and side-splitting in the delivery of what he calls "art-rap."
A former special education teacher and a member of both L.A.'s famed Project Blowed collective and Nocando's imprint Hellfyre Club, Eagle has released three critically acclaimed albums (with features from artists such as Danny Brown and Busdriver) since 2010. His music is always sonically challenging and rewarding, and he remains equally self-aware and absurd in relating concerns pertaining to rap, society, fatherhood, and our existence. In other words, few rappers are capable of crooning about wiping their son's ass ("Qualifiers"), or joking about middle-aged rappers plagued by erectile dysfunction ("Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes"), without ruining the punch line. Though his monotone isn't as pronounced, Eagle might be the rap game Steven Wright.
Eagle's predilection for comedy has landed him an appearance on Marc Maron's WTF Podcast and opening gigs for comedians such as Paul F. Thompkins. He also hosted his own rap variety show this past January, which featured comedians Baron Vaughn and D.C. Pierson. And, in case you were wondering, his personal Mount Rushmore includes but is not limited to Kurt Vonnegut, Redd Foxx, Howard the Duck, and Ron Simmons.
Recently, Eagle signed a three-album deal with independent rap label Mello Music Group, who will release his aptly titled fourth album, Dark Comedy. A forward-thinking record still very much grounded in the present, it's arguably his best yet. Noisey is happy to premiere "Dark Comedy Morning Show," the album's latest single. Produced by budding L.A. producer/DJ/singer/multi-instrumentalist Toy Light, it ranks among the most affecting songs on Dark Comedy, poignant and powerful with flashes of incomparable wit throughout.
Toy Light's guitar riffs and soft singing provide a warm backdrop, one he continually layers with minimal yet hard-hitting drums and an engaging blend of glitch, clip, and static. This is the sound of Nirvana's most melodic moments run through the gears of industrial rap and reworked by one of the L.A. beat scene's emerging talents. Eagle straddles the line between cutting critic and cutup. Rap game lamentations are tempered by his tendency to tweet on Sunday morning. Thus, the modern man's hustle may one day be forsaken for the plight of the hologram. The fact that Facebook catalogues Eagle's favorite sandwiches is hilarious and alternatively capable of inducing paranoia. What does Facebook do with the data? You can either laugh and shrug or deactivate your account. By the end of song, Eagle's voice is nearly drowned in a discordant drone. Maybe that's how it feels to rap in 2014 or maybe he just wants you to listen more closely.
For those who enjoy the single, Dark Comedy drops June 10 and is currently available for pre-order on Itunes. The official album listening party is May 1 at The Mint in L.A. There will be rapping, comedy, and possibly an assortment of fair trade cheeses. Additionally, there are rumors that Eagle will deliver a flawless Stone Cold Stunner on stage before signing fans' WWE merchandise. We may be making up that last part, but god almight, we hope it's true.
Max Bell delivers Stunners daily. He's on Twitter — @JM_Bell23