Open Mike Eagle is a rapper and comedian from Chicago, Il. He is an absolute rockstar of the underground hip hop world with a unique flow and breakneck work ethic. He’s released nine LP’s in ten years, his latest project, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, finding it’s way onto nearly every end of year album lists in 2017. In addition, he’s released seven EP’s over this time and What Happens When I Try to Relax is the latest on this list. Having missed my chance to review his last record, I was determined to catch his next release, and luckily I didn’t have to wait long.
The EP opens with “Relatable,” which sets the tone quite well, striking an almost epic feel in the opening verse despite the minimal beat. Mike’s flow is fairly simple but effective, and lyrically, he dances well between punchlines and serious diagnoses of his mind state and inability to cope with stress. He forgoes a chorus in favor of an excellent trumpet solo from Jordan Katz which acts as a kind of bridge between the track’s two verses. Overall, and excellent opener.
“Every Single Thing,” follows with one of the funniest intros I’ve heard in a very long time which quickly dissolves into a much harder hitting track than it’s predecessor. Jumping from video game references to commentary on racism, Mike builds himself as a character in a very interesting way. His racial comments are particularly brutal, rapping “How it’s both sides, we both ain’t dyin’.” The instrumental is again, this time building mainly on slowly developing synth leads.
The best track on the record falls square in the middle with “Microfiche.” Over the nondescript, psychedelic beat, Mike’s flow is unstoppable, mixed perfectly between lyrically heavy-hitting and melodically soft. The rapped hook is fun and singable and topics range from drug use to, again, video games, through politics, and a dash of mental health. His ability to filter his hectic lack of focus through a soft, listenable aesthetic is a microcosm of what makes What Happens When I Try to Relax such an enjoyable project.
The follow up, “Single Ghosts,” is far more nocturnal as Mike tells a very October-appropriate tale of falling in love with a ghost. This track blurs the lines between comedy and horror rap in a unique way. I have the utmost appreciation for his replication of the Ghost Busters hook, and I enjoy the switch up, however, this will likely be the track I find myself revisiting the least.
“Southside Eagle,” is up next with an excellent, dreamy chorus as the opening. While the flow is a bit boring, Mike’s lyrics about seeing fellow rappers around him but feeling out of place, as well as his lines examining the effects of Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” on the lives of bullied youth, are especially thoughtful and a perfect example of what makes him such a beloved feature of the underground hip-hop scene.
“Maybe Gang” closes the project very well. Much of Mike’s flow is comedically inept, though the several of the rhyme schemes are quite elite. The hook is an ear worm, one the only of it’s kind on the record, and the trap cymbals that adorn the entire track set the tone in an interesting way. It’s a respectable closer for a more than respectable project.
This EP is fun, it’s comical at times, and more than anything, it’s supremely listenable. As Open Mike Eagle bounces from topic to topic with flow and conviction, there’s nothing to do but bob your head and try to keep up.
While What Happens When I Try to Relax lacks the focus and conceptuality of previous Open Mike Eagle Projects, his ability to spread this chaotic thought over smooth, psychedelic instrumentals makes for a fun listen that you’ll leave on repeat for a few days.
HEAR WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I TRY TO RELAX: https://open.spotify.com/album/7qTEGu0Gvikwk1n8SwjmEL