Sound Advice: Open Mike Eagle with Ronin, Vibe-One and Juan Cosby (Oct. 21)

Endlessly creative and inventive MC/wordsmith comes to Northside's Chamelon.

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click to enlarge Open Mike Eagle - Photo: EmariTraffie
Photo: EmariTraffie
Open Mike Eagle
For the sake of expediency and efficiency, it’s easiest to label Open Mike Eagle’s music “Alternative” or “Indie” Hip Hop — he himself offered a handy introductory descriptor by titling his 2010 debut solo album Unapologetic Art Rap. But the Chicago-raised/L.A.-based writer/musician/MC’s work is so richly layered and uniquely imaginative, it seems insufficient to compare it to the output of other artists in the genre.  

While he is an obvious scholar of Hip Hop who utilizes many of the same tools of the trade, Eagle is not one for limiting himself to the basic, standard toolkit. Drawing from an expansive base of knowledge and bolstered by a dedication to varying approaches and perspectives, the way Eagle puts words and concepts together is unparalleled. That’s not to say that Rap’s history isn’t littered with ingenious writers and musicians — Eagle just has that rare quality that suggests he could have taken his intriguingly artful way with words into any number of creative disciplines (say, novelist, screenwriter, poet or playwright) and been just as much of a compelling artistic figure.

Eagle’s path to the underground Hip Hop world provides some insight into the perceptive, cerebral, offbeat and funny wordsmithery and storytelling to come. Growing up a fan of Hip Hop but also genres like Metal and Alternative music (They Might Be Giants is a longtime favorite), Eagle went on to earn a degree in psychology from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he became friends with comedian Hannibal Buress. He then moved to L.A. and was introduced to the inclusive, socially conscious Project Blowed collective, which helped him sharpen his skills through open mics and workshops and put the possibility of rapping as a career into focus.

Blending his lyrical dexterity and dazzling rhyme-scheming with a strongly melodic undercurrent, Eagle began turning heads on a broader scale with his first solo album, which included guest appearances by Burress and like-minded MCs Busdriver and Serengeti. In 2014, Eagle released the widely acclaimed (and, again, helpfully titled descriptively) Dark Comedy, which cemented his status as a major force in Indie Rap with its perfect balance of shrewd societal observations, anxious but cutting humor and a flood of unexpected and often divergent cultural references. It is undoubtedly the only Hip Hop album to name-drop Weird Science, The Royal Tenenbaums, Steven Wright, In Living Color, John Lennon and the Koch brothers — and that’s just on the opening track.

Eagle’s longtime passion for comedy — and his own ace comedic sensibilities — organically resulted in comedians becoming a part of his social and collaborative circles as rappers. A couple of years ago, Eagle and comedian Baron Vaughn developed music/stand-up showcase The New Negroes, which found the pair and various guests performing live at comedy venues across the country. Comedy Central bought rights to the show for a series, which Eagle and Co. are developing.

Eagle hasn’t slacked off on his music career, though. Last month he released the remarkable Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, a concept album about the mammoth Chicago housing project Robert Taylor Homes that was demolished a decade ago. Using a comic-book superhero motif (as well as other effective literary devices), Eagle deftly weaves a weighty tale of the 30,000 unceremoniously displaced residents (many of whom are still unaccounted for), crafting a form of social commentary that manages to be personal, political, poetic and, at times, morbidly funny.

Prior to Eagle’s Saturday-night performance at Chameleon, he is slated to appear at Everybody’s Records in Pleasant Ridge for a “Cash Mob,” a recurring community effort designed to draw attention to independent local establishments. The 1-5 p.m. event will also feature a storytelling segment presented by Cincy Stories.


Click here for for tickets/more show info.

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