Open Mike Eagle on His New EP 'What Happens When I Try to Relax' & Reaching the Peak of Indie Rap


Open Mike Eagle has at all times lent his work a sure financial gravitas, relating to each his private life and the inequalities that regularly plague America -- significantly black Americans and folks of shade. Indie rap cash isn’t what it was once, and even then, it wasn’t mainstream rap cash.

Eagle’s on the highest level of his profession, recent off a year-long tour following the discharge of his most acclaimed album up to now, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream. It’s a wonderful document, an ode to the Robert Taylor houses in Chicago that have been demolished and erased from the general public consciousness. Eagle spends the document making an attempt to rediscover the venture that after housed his aunt. But on his newest EP, What Happens When I Try to Relax, he’s already moved previous this triumph: “I made an audio mural you'll be able to stroll by/ About my auntie I don’t even discuss to,” he raps on spotlight “Southside Eagle (93 Bulls).”

For Mike, the extra issues change the extra they keep the identical. He’s extra seen than he’s ever been, a real voice within the indie rap world, and but, these are nonetheless recession raps, with Eagle spinning strains about being within the pink and forgetting to eat after reveals as a result of he’s too busy promoting his personal T-shirts. Open Mike Eagle has reached the ceiling of indie rap, and on What Happens When I Try to Relax, he wonders what’s subsequent.

“I’m a nationwide and worldwide rapper and I’m by no means usually part of conversations about rap music,” Eagle explains over lunch and smoothies at Simply Wholesome in South Los Angeles. “...This isn’t the reality, however that is how I really feel: Whenever Kendrick [Lamar] or J. Cole, them two particularly, put one thing out, I really feel prefer it erases my existence and I rattling close to must justify my existence over once more as a result of the cultural area they occupy is a magnified model of what I do, in a way. Especially in the best way I’m perceived.”

If Brick Body Kids was step one in asserting himself in some form of nationwide dialog, Eagle had little interest in constructing upon that ghost with this new EP. And in some ways, a brisk, six-song EP after a career-defining album looks as if a rash choice. But Eagle lets his work communicate for itself: “I figured my six songs ought to have a number of guts. My six songs have an album’s price of guts. That ought to be adequate. I’d put my six in opposition to anyone else’s six. I’d put 'em up.”

While the document as an entire is a swift assertion that Eagle has solely grown stronger since his final document, a number of of the songs are profession highlights. There’s opener “Relatable (peak OME),” which finds the MC mixing his searing irony with a self-deprecation that few can pull off with swagger and braggadocio. “I’m tremendous accessible/ Just take a look at my calendar take a look at my schedule/ Monday is unbelievable!,” he declares with fake triumph.

Then, there’s “Southside Eagle,” the aforementioned fifth music of the EP and the one which’s a defining assertion for Eagle’s mission. “If there’s a music on this venture that basically envelops the ethos of it, it’s ‘Southside Eagle.’ I actually wished to jot down all of the songs like that, however even that music, once I began and I checked out what I had, I used to be like, ‘Oh, that is manner darkish.’ I really ended up altering a few of the lyrics to that music,” he explains. “I actually wished to dive into...It has one thing to do with the visceral emotions of my financial actuality. I actually wished to push into that and specific that, as a result of I've a number of inside dialogue about that on a regular basis and I usually don’t really feel like I've an outlet for it.” In this sense -- and no venture in Eagle’s discography expresses this sense of being caught greater than What Happens... -- the economics of indie rap, and the way it’s inextricably linked to each music Mike places out, turns into painfully clear.

This isn’t a confusion of existential dread for a scarcity of upward mobility by artwork; particularly, a black artwork type. For Eagle, these two issues can’t be separated. “We stay in a capitalistic society, so existentialism and the financial system, I don’t know the way you break up these up. I’d love to have the ability to, however that’s why I gotta do all this different shit,” he says. Those different issues are near-constant excursions, a Comedy Central pilot, a fast airplane trip to Louisville to wrestle a Twitter troll. Mike Eagle’s a rapper -- among the finest we now have -- however he additionally needs to be a lot extra. “Increasingly,” Mike slowly asserts between bites of what he describes as a healthyish McMuffin, “the battle is financial in a manner that it wasn’t earlier than. It was once aesthetic. Now it’s financial.”

With that stark actuality, Mike bets on himself in a world that he describes as each low stakes and excessive. He has quite a bit to lose, however every part he could lose is his. “I survive on artistic pressured will. I survive on grand leaps that don’t make sense.” Hence the wrestling match and the six-song EP barely a 12 months after his essential darling landed him an NPR Tiny Desk Concert. It’s a darkish forecast, as a result of there doesn’t appear to be an avenue for upward enlargement inside rap. Mike’s an unbiased voice, and area for rappers of his ilk within the mainstream is at most capability. “I’m on the ceiling. I really feel like I’m there...I actually need to say that I’m not complaining. I don’t suppose there’s something unhealthy in regards to the place I’m in. I can bear in mind having nothing. I can do not forget that clearly.”

Toward the top of our dialog, I attempt to discover a glimmer of hope, that Open Mike Eagle’s world isn’t at some form of breaking level, the place he can transfer sideways however now not up. It’s a startlingly clear analogy for an unlimited variety of folks of shade in our nation. “I actually consider within the potential of humanity, however I prefer to attempt to be actually sensible in regards to the forces up in opposition to our improvement. It don’t look good, man.” Mike Eagle’s music has at all times been an unblinking, comically tragic mirror to society. “Capitalism is fucked up. It’s not moral and there’s no option to do it proper. I dunno what else to do.”

Until he figures out what that subsequent factor is, he’ll hold rapping. And the individuals who find it irresistible could have their lives modified by his music -- some will even get his phrases inked on their our bodies (sorry, Mom) -- and the individuals who don’t care will proceed not caring. That’s all good with Open Mike Eagle, as a result of his is a world for many who need to be part of it. “I don’t know the best way to make music for strangers. I’m very accessible,” he says with amusing.