open eagle is the voice of reason

by clairefagan

On Oct 16, Open Mike Eagle released his fifth solo studio album Anime, Trauma, and Divorce. The record is a stunningly human collection of tracks about loss, coping, and joy that has some fuckin sick beats, too! Michael Eagle, who goes by the stage name Open Mike Eagle, is a hip hop musician, comedian, podcast host, and overall cool person. The type of music he produces is in the “art-rap” genre, and he coined the term art-rap himself. That’s some legend shit! On A,T+D, OME recounts the losses and major changes that he’s experienced in recent years and the trials and tribulations of coping with everyday life. OME writes about his recent separation from his wife and the cancellation of his Comedy Central show with Baron Vaughn. There’s plentiful anime references on the release; he uses anime characters to connect to himself and his own life.

The first song on the release, Death Parade, is named after an anime series and its lyrics describe the cyclical nature of trauma. In an interview with Justin Sayles of The Ringer, OME said “[Death Parade] in many ways is a thesis about the cycle of trauma and how that has played into everything else that I talk about on the album. I think it ultimately ends up going back to a foundational trauma that keeps getting manifested and replayed over and over again. That song is so cyclical in itself that to me it seemed like the perfect thesis.”

On the track Everything Ends Last Year, OME talks about the rise and decline of different projects he’s been a part of, including his Comedy Central show and his old record label Hellfyre Club. OME raps, “we heard we wasn’t performing, we heard it wasn’t resuming, and it ended (it fuckin ended just like that)”. His disappointment at the sudden cancellations and the slow-burning declines of the projects is palpable. 

Black Mirror Episode is a very funny and deeply sad song. On the track, OME raps about how watching a Black Mirror Episode with his wife led to a rift that ruined his marriage. He raps, “happy home to go hell cause of tech shit, well my shit went to hell cause of Netflix”. When OME and his wife were watching the episode, they “saw a Black Mirror and it looked like us”. OME said on twitter that he would not be revealing which episode he’s talking about but he said that many people had guessed correctly. There are only a few episodes that this could be talking about, though- I don’t think the killer bees or robot dogs episodes could ruin a marriage unless something was already deeply wrong. 

I’m A Joestar (Black Power Fantasy) was the first single OME released for this record. He wrote on twitter, “I’m a Joestar can sound like a shallow song but it really comes from a deep need to find an external source of strength”. The song references the anime JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, which centers around the Joestar family. Open Mike Eagle is a Joestar! He says, “in this chapter JoJo is African, and it’s me, Mike Eagle, I’m the protagonist, and it’s set in south-central Los Angeles, cause goddammit, it’s my turn, it’s my saga, it’s a special edition of Open Mike’s manga”. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, along with most other anime and manga series, center around protagonists with light skin, and OME challenges that with this track and with this album. OME says, “I don’t give a fuck if I’m a brother, I’m a Joestar” and that he “will never be a co-star”. It is a song about Black Power, and it is one of many songs in his body of work about Black Power; he called it “one of his prayer songs”. 

The album closes with a track about a nerve-wracking snorkeling trip with his son. This track, along with Asa’s Bop, features the vocals of OME’s son, Lil A$e. It’s a sweet and silly track about a family trip that exudes joy, though the content invokes my own past memories of snorkeling-related terror. OME says, “I didn’t see no fish I saw my life flash before my eyes”. The hook features OME, his son and his son’s friend T shouting “fifteen-twenty feet ocean nah!” and it keeps getting stuck in my head :’).  

Anime, Trauma, and Divorce is a poignant release. On Everything Ends Last Year, he says “it’s October and I’m tired”. Well, it’s November at this point, but when I first listened to it I was like haha wow that’s relatable. Open Mike Eagle has bestowed upon us a great gift! We don’t even have to pay to listen to it, everything is free now. If you haven’t listened to Open Mike Eagle, you really gotta! He has a diverse body of work and humor, insight, introspection, talented lyricism, and sick beats are a constant throughout his releases. 

Categories: claire fagan, November 3, 2020, tunes

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