On new album “Brick Body Kids Still Daydream,” indie art rapper Michael W. Eagle II, known otherwise as Open Mike Eagle, elegizes the Robert Taylor Homes community, which was demolished in 2007 by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The housing project, which was on Chicago’s South Side, was important to Eagle because he grew up going there to visit family.
“I think it shaped parts of my personality; it was so constantly dangerous, that I did kind of turn inward rather than engage with it,” Eagle told me over the phone earlier this month.
“Maybe in some ways it kind of sparked my imagination,” he added.
And his new album is nothing short of imaginative, exuding a quiet, floating chillness that sets him apart from other West Coast rappers (Eagle has been in the LA hip-hop scene for the past 13 years now). It’s a result of his singular vision -- ironically, the result of his work with 10 different producers.
“I’m kind of like a dictator, an autocrat. It’s easier to make the artistic decisions I want to make when I’m working with different producers,” Eagle said.
While he hasn’t used the term “art rap” for a while now, his status as auteur remains.
“I started using it like seven years ago. It used to be a way to differentiate a style of rap that’s whimsical, self-indulgent and personal, from what was going on in mainstream rap at the time,” he said, “But everyone’s being arty now so that distinction is not as important.”
“Brick Body Kids Still Daydream” showcases that artiness, and despite what he might say, there is something different about his style of rap -- more poetry than pop, more hip than hop.
Open Mike Eagle headlines Casbah on Tuesday, Oct. 24. Get your tickets here.
Rutger Rosenborg was almost a Stanford poet-neuroscientist before he formed Ed Ghost Tucker. Whoops. He now fronts the Lulls and makes music on his own when he's not writing. Follow his updates on Facebook or contact him directly.