Tag Archives: Open Mike Eagle

Willie Green, The “Unseen Hand” Behind Backwoodz Studioz

Willie Green

“We were just gonna make the record we wanted to make, because we figured that was our last shot.”

Willie Green is speaking about History Will Absolve Me, the 2012 solo album by billy woods that became a turning point not only in the history of woods’ label, Backwoodz Studioz, but for Green’s entire career. Green and woods had worked together before, notably on Cape Verde, the final album by Super Chron Flight Bros, woods’s group with the rapper Privilege. But on History, Green had woods in his apartment studio, overseeing the project as executive producer, feeding him acerbic, trouble funk production that churned beneath woods’s grim reality rap. The two defied the rose-colored “cloud rap” trends of the times, pursuing a sound that was corroded and cacophonous—a step beyond even the trademark Definitive Jux dystopia—to create what became their defining statement.

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Album of the Day: Open Mike Eagle, “What Happens When I Try To Relax”

Great comedians aren’t successful because they’re funny—they’re successful because they’re able to make you laugh while telling a brutally honest truth. By this metric, rapper Open Mike Eagle is one of the best comedians around. Across his catalog, he’s cast an unflinching—and often unflattering—light on our current age, by wrapping his sharp observations inside killer punchlines.

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This Week’s Essential Releases: Hip-Hop, Synthwave, Pop, and More

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Welcome to Seven Essential Releases, our weekly roundup of the best music on Bandcamp. Each week, we’ll recommend six new albums that were released between last Friday and this Friday, plus pick an older LP from the stacks that you may have missed.

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Better Know a College Radio Station: WRUV

WRUV

For many obsessive fans who grew up in the pre-Internet era, a passion for music was sparked in the dingy basements and dark booths of college radio stations. Despite sound boards that are decades out of date and tastes that are rapidly changing, the collegiate airwaves tradition has endured. The best college stations remain dedicated to delivering music that fall outside the purview of Billboard-charting mainstream radio. Continue reading

The Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2017

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As the year comes to a close, it’s time to engage in the time-honored tradition of rounding up its essential releases. Over the course of the last 12 months, Bandcamp was home to some of the most thrilling, creative, and innovative albums in hip-hop, with MCs embarking on lyrical flights of fancy over beats that skew experimental, but still keep it funky. Presented in alphabetical order, here’s your 10 hip-hop sure shots for the rap year 2017.

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The Best Albums of 2017: #40 – #21

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We’ll be revealing the full list, 20 albums at a time, this whole week.

Last year, the Bandcamp Daily staff put together our first “Best Albums of the Year List,” 100 albums we felt defined 2016 for us. At the time I remember thinking, “This is tough, but it will probably get easier as the years go on.” Now, one year later, I’m realizing that I was wrong. The truth is, the world of Bandcamp is enormous, and it contains artists from all over the world, in every conceivable genre (including a few who exist in genres of their own invention), and at every stage of their career. The fact of the matter is, any list like this is going to fall short because, on Bandcamp, there is always more to discover. Right now, there’s probably someone in their bedroom in Buenos Aires, making a record on their computer that is going to end up on next year’s list. So as comprehensive as we’ve tried to make this list, we realize that, even at 100 albums, we’re only scratching the surface of what’s available. The albums that made this list, though, were the ones that stayed with us long after they were released—the ones we returned to again and again and found their pleasures undimmed, and their songs still rewarding.

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Album of the Day: Open Mike Eagle, “Brick Body Kids Still Daydream”

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.

Jesse Fairfax 

A Walk Through The Avant-Garde World of ‘Art Rap’ Music

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Illustrations by Daiana Ruiz

Coined by Chicago native Open Mike Eagle in the early aughts, “art rap” was originally a reactionary phrase, one that responded directly to the subgenre of “art rock” and implied that the standard set of sonic or lyrical conventions did not apply. On another level, it was a way to distinguish his music from the music that fell under broad and nebulous labels like “hip-hop” and “underground rap,” which are sometimes embraced by rappers and listeners who believe that anything that doesn’t explicitly champion “real hip-hop” is, well, you know—the opposite.

“Having studied the history of American pop music and black music, it’s appalling where we are now,” Eagle told L.A. Weekly in 2010. “That’s why I wanted to give my music another term, something to differentiate itself from the pack. You can’t call everything ‘hip-hop.’ I was listening to rock music, and it struck me that a lot of the rock I liked was called ‘art rock.’ I started wondering why they had a genre where they can do whatever the fuck they want to do, and rappers are scorned if they don’t have enough machismo.”

Today, art rap is even a tag on this website. To sum it up (albeit reductively), art rap is avant-garde rap music that is antithetical to terrestrial radio station playlists. (That’s not always the case—records by artists like Kendrick Lamar certainly push the boundaries of rap.) More broadly, the subgenre has some identifying characteristics, including but not limited to: left field, forward-thinking production, unconventional song structures and cadences, songs written from the perspective of fictional characters, explicit and protracted engagement with social and political issues, and absurdist metaphors and similes.

From the description above, it should be clear that labeling a song/album “art rap” does not mean that it’s only that. Nor are any of those characteristics necessarily new. The list of art rap forebears is long, spanning from west coast jazz-rap progenitors Freestyle Fellowship to one-time Def Jukies like El-P, Aesop Rock, and Cannibal Ox. The list below features 12 rappers whose output—either recent or career-long—meets some of the above criteria. Most, if not all of them, have worked with at least one other rapper on the list in some capacity. This overlap was not intentional, but its existence affirms the artists’ aesthetic kinship, the reality that art rap has always been and will continue to flourish.

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