Headphones: Open Mike Eagle Pens a Perfect Picture


Open Mike Eagle, the Los Angeles based underground rap veteran returns with his first solo album since 2014, and with more to say than ever before. On his latest release, Brick Body Boys Still Daydream, he details a powerful portrayal of gentrification and its toll on the communities residing in these buildings. 

Open Mike Eagle wrote this album for the Robert Taylor Homes, a Chicago housing project he spent years in. Growing up in this place means that these brick buildings are part of his foundation. The people in these low-income houses are part of his bedrock. So what do you think, say and do when this foundation is chiseled away by wealthy developers, and the culture and people that once lived there are demolished away?

Mike has always been the kind of rapper that can say more in one song than most can on a whole album. His mellow, laid-back voice glides smoothly over any production. He's at his best over airy, free-flowing beats, like the one on "Legendary Iron Hood." Over a cozy, guitar and piano filled beat produced by Exile, Mike lays down a moody and powerful album opener. 

On "Brick Body Complex," Mike makes his battle cry. He spits venomous bars without remorse for the people that are trying to whitewash his community, and in turn, his identity. There is aggression in these words and purpose behind them. Mike delivers bars like "Don't call me n***a or rapper, my mothaf***ing name is Michael Eagle, I'm sovereign," and "Don't let nobody tell you something different, they lying. A giant and my body is a building, a building, a building."

Another example of Mike's ability to tell a story is on "'95 Radios." This song takes on another aspect of gentrification, and something that's especially relevant today. Talk to anyone over the age of 30 and ask them how they listened to music in the 90s. It was on a cassette, in a stereo. It was something handheld and cherished. It was something that required purchasing and intensive listening. Now music is heard on streaming services, and the physical piece of music is seen as obsolete, phased out, forgotten about. That's how the people in housing projects must feel when they're forced out of their buildings for newer, remodeled condominiums. 

Gentrification is a real problem in America, and it's sometimes hard to see unless we look. Where there are fresh-pressed juice stores and artisanal haircut places, there were once families living happily. These families may have lived there for years, built communities around their cultures, worked hard to remain there – only to be forced out when it got too expensive to stay. This is real life in America. 

It's important to have rappers like Open Mike Eagle who are willing and able to paint pictures like the ones on Brick Body Boys. Projects like these remind us to think of others. All around the country there are places where people dwell, being destroyed and the families uprooted. Music allows us to truly listen to their plight.


Single of the Week: Jamie XX- "On Hold (Remix)": The XX make the greatest mood music imaginable. Their sound pairs perfectly with the drizzling of rain and the silent longing for a person who's no longer around. "On Hold" off their latest record I See You is a perfect example of this. Quoting the song, "When and where did we go cold/ I thought I had you on hold?" However, the production side of the band, Jamie XX, had a few tricks up his sleeve when he turned the remix of this sad song into a club banger. It's euphoric and only samples snippets of the original song. It's a good break from the heartbreak. 


Music Videos of the Week

Radiohead- "Lift": For Radiohead diehard fans, "Lift" has always been an item of folklore. It was the song left off 1997's OK Computer that has only just now resurfaced on their 20th anniversary of the album. The video, directed by Oscar Hudson, chronicles all the chapters of Radiohead's previous videos, containing Easter eggs sparsed throughout. There are characters from previous videos "Karma Police" and "Paranoid Android," Thom Yorke's real-life daughter who presses all the buttons on the elevator and a twist ending that will leave you scratching your head, as all good Radiohead visuals do.

Japandroids- "North East South West": The life of a rockstar. It seems like a perfect thing, filled with girls, booze, stage diving and people adoring you at every stop. Well, Japandroids' video for "North East South West" is basically a collection of all those things. It's a chronicle of their tour through Europe in support of their new album Near to the Wild Heart of Life. It looks like a really great time, and it makes us wish we were rockstars touring the world, not writers typing this at a desk with last night's pizza reheating in the microwave.