It’s been three years since Chicago rapper Open Mike Eagle released his highly praised Brick Body Kids Still Daydream. Aside from The New Negroes Soundtrack, which saw him collaborating with MF DOOM, Danny Brown, and Method Man, Mike has been lingering in the shadows preparing his next offering. This weekend he dropped his sixth full-length album titled Anime, Trauma, and Divorce. Following up an album that many considered to be one of the best of the last decade, will Open Mike Eagle be able to meet fan’s unreal expectations?
While remaining with the satirical rapping style he’s known for, Open Mike Eagle’s subject matter takes a rough turn as he compromises his flagship hard to decipher social commentary for topical simplicity. At times, this idea is well-executed, like on “Head*ss” as Eagle creates a whole song around the premises of the millennial slang term, but for the most part, cuts like “I’m a Joestar (Black Power Fantasy)” feel edgy without a purpose. “The Black Mirror Episode” is undoubtedly the highlight of this group, as Mike tells a compelling story about how Netflix’s hit sci-fi series Black Mirror ended up destroying his marriage. “Death Parade” is one of the many times Open Mike’s emotionally moving storytelling is canceled out due to his robot-like delivery. While mentioning vocal performance, “Sweatpants Spiderman” is one of the many tracks suffering from the 39-year-old rappers cadence, which sounds like he’s talking to a group of kindergarteners. On the positive side of things, the tripped-out “Bucciarati” with Kari Faux and the depressing monologue on “Everything Ends Last Year” show flashes of greatness and prove that Eagle is still one of the games most talented MC’s. Furthering the subtly referenced themes of mental health, “Wtf is Self Care” and “The Edge of New Clothes”, continue to show the LA-based rapper trying to climb his way out of an insurmountable hole. Another nice touch was the addition of the character Little A$e (who is actually Open Mike Eagle’s son) as his juvenile bars add much needed humor and depth. While trying to depict themes of personal struggle and torment, Open Mike Eagle’s burning desire to discover the next abstract sound harms his stellar song-writing.
Behind the boards, the lo-fi instrumentals create the perfect setting for an underground masterpiece. The problem is, with beats that linger in the shadows and rely on suspense and uncertainty, there needs to be a consistent microphone presence holding them together, and as previously stated, Open Mike Eagle fails to be that missing piece. “Sweatpants Spiderman”, “Ziggy Starfish”, and “Bucciarati” suffer the most prominently in this measure. Fortunately, cuts like “The Black Mirror Episode” and “The Edge of New Clothes” can stand on their own due to the defining abrasive qualities they helm. “Asa’s Bop” was a definite standout as its warping synths and chilling background details throw the listener in a trance. Even with moments like these, the instrumental beauty is still unsalvageable beyond the surface. Although most songs are sonically proficient and well arranged, the production can only do so much in tying this experience together.
Throughout history, great artists boldest offerings sometimes fail to transcend a broad audience, and Anime, Trauma, and Divorce seems to be the newest member of this family. While laying the ground down with an intricate soundscape and some potent talking pieces, Open Mike Eagle’s weird flow and scattered topical choices cause everything to delude into one gigantic mess. For Open Mike Eagle, this is for sure his worst LP to date, and hopefully, he can find his footing and bounce back sooner than later.
- Amazing lyricism/songwriting
- Well crafted soundtrack
- Perfect implantation of his son (Little A$e)
- Awkward flows
- Messy concept
- Jokes hit or miss
- Feels like a low budget JPEGMAFIA album
- Underwhelming performance for Open Mike Eagle