Open Mike Eagle’s new album, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, is a love letter to Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes, an infamous public housing project completely demolished in 2007, that’s told with the rapper’s trademark blend of witty quips and bleak social commentary. A Windy City native, Eagle riffs on the pain of government-sanctioned trauma, resulting in his most heartfelt work to date.
On Daydream, Eagle talks about the plight of his hometown’s ghetto, while staying true to his core musical formula, where sharp punchlines meet thought-provoking introspection. “Legendary Iron Hood” is the theme for a young heroic, mystic figure determined to overcome the tragedies of poverty and neighboring gang activity. Here, Exile’s keys, a muffled drum, and electric guitar give the song a folkish backdrop, a contrast to the project’s hyperactive single—“Brick Body Complex”—where Eagle raps from the perspective of the final building to be torn down over rattling percussion.
“95 Radios” is a soothing homage to golden age hip-hop airwaves that loosely ties into the album’s greater narrative, as Eagle and the song’s producer Has-Lo reflect on how their affinity for the likes of Q-Tip and De La Soul became a refuge from their harsh surroundings. On “Daydreaming In The Projects” Eagle extols the ability of youth to transcend its circumstances (over an arrangement that pays mild homage to video game composer Koji Kondo).
A master of detailing the human condition, Eagle weaves satire with sadness on “No Selling (Uncle Butch Pretends It Don’t Hurt),” the tale of a character so accustomed to trauma that he’s become numb to emotion. Brick Body Kids Still Daydream closes with the noisy, angsty “My Auntie’s Building.” Here, Eagle vents: “They say America fights fair, but they won’t demolish your timeshare.” The line feels especially sharp—a wry punchline that reveals a stinging truth.