Review: Open Mike Eagle - Dark Comedy

Eminem meets Dave Chappelle. Mostly.

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(© Mello Music Group)

Open Mike Eagle is the thinking man's artist. The LA-based rapper spends most of Dark Comedy wrapping his tongue around witty asides and swathing his songs in coffee-shop rap drapes. And, through it all, Open Mike remains absurd and hilarious, with a silky voice that often splits the difference between rapping and singing.

Dark Comedy stands far away from the militant approach of your average Jansport rapper.

The message is the same; Mike just does a better job of disguising the darkness. Tunes touch on cultural confusion, identity crises and bathroom etiquette, but they pour out of a chamber of slick, synthetic soundtracks.

One of Dark Comedy's signature moments is “Doug Stamper,” named after the House of Cards persuasion specialist. It’s basically Open Mike and Hannibal Burress passing down life advice while sneering at your bad habits.

Tips include:

“If you start to lose your hair, skip the combover”
“A journalist should never write a slang editorial.”
“White rappers, quit rapping in your hood voice.”
"And if your rap career ain't hittin' you can rap over videos of kittens."
“Never buy weed from a guy named Mortimer.” 

 

Another highlight is “Very Much Money,”  a spectacularly powerful moment laced around a sumptuous soup of magenta keys. Bubbling up in the middle of the concoction is Mike’s voice with an endless string of quotables.

Lil Wayne is an ancient African. Jay Z’s been around since the 20s though/The only new ones are Lil B and One. Be. Lo,” he raps. 

The revolving hook is also worth visiting:

My friends are superheroes
None of us have very much money though
They can fly, run fast, read Portuguese
None of us have very much money though
They wear the same underwear as billionaires
None of us have very much money though

The album's best song is "Qualifiers," which straddles the line between reality and the modern hustle. The fact that he's trying to make you dance while wiping fecal matter off his son's buttocks is both real and hilarious. 

Open Mike's facility for blending the poetic and the political in a way that feels conversational and dreamy is a rare quality. At times he evokes Infinite era Eminem; at times, he recalls a brainy Dave Chappelle.

Whatever mode he's in, Mike doesn't always clobber you with the answers to life's big questions. He's not even sure he wants to be taken seriously. He simply wants you to care. At times, as on "Idaho," Dark Comedy unfurls like a strange dream, in which Open Mike plays out an absurd and revealing drift. Loneliness and tragedy lurk throughout the album's Side B, and his songs always seem to brace a subtle message: life doesn't always reward the most gifted. But you can always laugh at your own misery.

For Open Mike Eagle, keeping it real means keeping it funny.

Quotables:

“I’m president of the rappers that don’t condone date rape.”

“Shout out to the first dude who pissed in the wind before.”

“You can use Facebook to learn gang signs, and creepers can stalk all their exes at the same time”

"I'm envious of anyone with full-grown facial hair."

“ '99 Problems' was a damn good summer song. If you got more than 3, then something is wrong.”

“Never buy weed from a guy named Mortimer.”

“If you ever find yourself in Southern Illinois, cop a mixtape from DJ Snowy Boo Boo (that’s a real dude).”