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

Open Mike Eagle has all the time lent his work a sure financial gravitas, concerning each his private life and the inequalities that frequently plague America -- notably black Americans and folks of coloration. 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 thus far, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream. It’s a wonderful report, an ode to the Robert Taylor properties in Chicago that had been demolished and erased from the general public consciousness. Eagle spends the report attempting to rediscover the challenge that when 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 may stroll via/ About my auntie I don’t even speak 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 traces about being within the purple and forgetting to eat after exhibits 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 should 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 no real 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 resolution. 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 needs to be adequate. I’d put my six towards anyone else’s six. I’d put 'em up.”

While the report as a complete is a swift assertion that Eagle has solely grown stronger since his final report, a couple 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 track of the EP and the one which’s a defining assertion for Eagle’s mission. “If there’s a track on this challenge that actually envelops the ethos of it, it’s ‘Southside Eagle.’ I actually wished to write down all of the songs like that, however even that track, once I began and I checked out what I had, I used to be like, ‘Oh, that is manner darkish.’ I truly ended up altering among the lyrics to that track,” 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 categorical that, as a result of I've a number of inside dialogue about that on a regular basis and I typically don’t really feel like I've an outlet for it.” In this sense -- and no challenge 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 track Mike places out, turns into painfully clear.

This isn’t a confusion of existential dread for an absence of upward mobility via artwork; particularly, a black artwork type. For Eagle, these two issues can’t be separated. “We reside in a capitalistic society, so existentialism and the economic 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 aircraft trip to Louisville to wrestle a Twitter troll. Mike Eagle’s a rapper -- the most effective now we 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 rather a lot to lose, however all the things he could lose is his. “I survive on artistic compelled will. I survive on grand leaps that don’t make sense.” Hence the wrestling match and the six-song EP barely a yr after his important 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 growth 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 assume there’s something unhealthy concerning the place I’m in. I can keep in mind having nothing. I can do not forget that clearly.”

Toward the tip 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 not up. It’s a startlingly clear analogy for an enormous variety of individuals of coloration in our nation. “I actually imagine within the potential of humanity, however I prefer to attempt to be actually sensible concerning the forces up towards our improvement. It don’t look good, man.” Mike Eagle’s music has all the time 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 maintain rapping. And the individuals who like it can 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 individuals who need to be part of it. “I don’t know learn how to make music for strangers. I’m very accessible,” he says with fun.