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Open Mike Eagle: Communities Gained and Lost

My first experience with Open Mike Eagle (OME) was his song “Dang is Invincible” because I followed one of the artists who worked on the music video. This song is about how it is possible to feel this emotion called, “dang," which is so strong, so powerful, that nothing can kill the vibe. It was a powerful introduction to Open Mike Eagle.

Photo courtesy of Raw Drive

However, Open Mike Eagle was also a way for me to learn about many other rappers, and to get drawn into the indie rap scene as a whole. There was always this surge of excitement I felt when I would check out a rapper who OME had mentioned in a song or who was featured in an OME song, and then I would see all the little references that showed how connected the two were. This first happened when in one of OME’s songs “Qualifiers.” He raps:

“’Daddy play some Busdriver’

Why the fuck's it take two lines to do a one liner

And why's it take three beats to do a two-step”

This introduced me to the rapper Busdriver, and when I checked him out on Prime Music, the only album available was “Perfect Hair.” In his song, “King Cookie Faced,” one of OME’s lyrics finally clicked into an even deeper sense of meaning. In OME’s “Raps For When It's Just You & The Abyss” he says, “I sit awake, baked on the shower stool / The cookie faced king had to surgically get his crown removed.” Beyond that, I found that the two artists would both use the phrase “cookie faced” when talking about someone who was high or drunk. Small connections like these were always a joy to find.

There were also many other artists who would feature on OME’s songs, or who would mention him in one of their own songs, and these were always just as exciting to find. For example, Sammus raps the song “Qualified,” which already seems like a response to OME’s “Qualifiers.” She raps: “Am I qualified? Check my qualifiers / Like I’m Open Mike... but I’m hella tired.” Open Mike Eagle even features on that song, so to see all the different ways in which these rappers interconnect, it is like a constantly evolving puzzle.

As I listen to more indie rappers and as more songs are produced, there is an ever-growing number of connections that are made. Through all of it, I get to learn about an evolving community. I get to see these relationships change, too, for example, OME and Sammus are now going on tour together with Video Dave.

Photo courtesy of Open Mike Eagle via Twitter

OME has certainly gained a community through the indie rap scene, but he has also lost large chunks of his childhood community. His album, “Brick Body Kids Still Daydream” focuses on his experiences growing up in the projects, and tries to bring the Robert Taylor Homes, a now demolished housing project in the south side of Chicago, back to life. The album starts with the song “Legendary Iron Hood.” The song is filled with references to X-men, Juggernaut and Magneto. However, the song eventually transitions to talking about how the speaker’s brother is involved in gangs and switches back and forth between these metaphors.

This “Legendary Iron Hood” is then featured in the music video for “Brick Body Complex,” which ironically starts with “My motherfucking name is Michael Eagle,” but then goes on to talk about how “I'm from a line of ghetto superheroes.” OME is trying to separate himself from personas and from other terms that people throw at him, only wanting to be himself, but also wanting to be someone who is great and powerful and respectable, and from the music video, it seems he wishes he had the power to have actually stopped the demolition of the Robert Taylor Homes.

Photo courtesy of mikeeagle.net

The album then ends with “My Auntie’s Building,” which starts with the line: “They blew up my auntie's building / Put out her great grandchildren” and near the end says:

“That building cost 10 million

Now an empty lot not filled in

It was people there and kids there

And drug dealers and church folk And they hit that shit with a wrecking ball so hard

Thought the whole earth broke”

In this resounding final song, we are left with the finality of what the government has done to a building that once housed families for generations. OME may have gained a powerful new community, but there is a piece of him that is sadly forever lost.

Pip is a humanities and WGS double major at USF, and is now expected to graduate in 2021. She spends a lot of her time researching women, sexuality, and gender in renaissance and medieval times. She is slowly growing closer to her goal of becoming a minor expert on the topic of medieval women.
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