Open Mike Eagle: Dark Comedy [Album Review]

dark-comedy

Dark Comedy, Open Mike Eagle‘s fourth solo album, is pretty hard to classify. I mean, it falls squarely under his brand of forward thinking “art rap,” but who even knows what that is?

Dark Comedy is a singular album without anything to truly compare it to, even from the oddball camp that is the bulk of the Hellfyre Club’s roster. Staples of their high IQ Hip Hop are clear from the get go: ethereal beats and references ranging from Twin Peaks to Tom Shadyac are par for the course here. Where Mike sets himself apart though is in his soft-spoken, deadpan delivery. Whereas fellow Hellfyre generals Busdriver and Nocando rap like smart-asses and Milo‘s the nerd spouting out random trivia, Open Mike Eagle comes off more as the quiet smart kid in the back row of class delivering one liners under his breath to no one but himself. If you happen to be sitting close enough to hear them, you’re in for a treat. His introspections are scattered throughout, many dealing with his family life. Right before he cracks wise about Dave Brubeck and expresses frustrations with the Man In Black from Lost on “Qualifiers,” Mike slips in his son’s choice of music (Busdriver) in the car. It’s moments like this that make Dark Comedy seem like the intimate comedy show that it’s supposed to be.

As any fan of comedy knows, writing is only half of the act. To really connect with the crowd, a comedian must be able to deliver his lines. This is where Dark Comedy falters slightly. For most of the album, Mike raps in a soft-spoken voice, which is fine considering his flat humor. “Very Much Money (Ice King Dream),” one of the best songs on the project, is where this quiet delivery works best. The most serious track on the album, Mike ruminates on the wonderful skills and qualities of his friends, but also on how those properties don’t necessarily bring financial comfort. It’s mature without being pretentious, and when Mike speaks in a barely audible whisper as the sad truth sinks in, you feel it just as much as he does. But when he tries singing, his audience starts to wonder what’s going on. His chops aren’t enough to hold up a lot of what he’s saying and it just come off as silly. Then again, it is supposed to be a funny album; so it could all be part of the act, no matter how suspect it may be.

Dark Comedy is mostly a solo affair, which is a bit of a shocker considering that none of the three guests featured are HellFyre associates. Toy Light provides vocal backup on the intro while Kool AD and comedian Hannibal Buress drop bars alongside Eagle. The former Das Racist emcee delivers a pretty lackluster verse on “Informations,” sounding exceptionally bored, which is saying something considering his style. But more importantly, listeners experience the Hip Hop debut of one of comedy’s biggest modern names. Although he’s not going to be on any GOAT lists, Hannibal Buress could start a rap career simply on the basis of how hilarious he is. “Doug Stamper (Advice Raps)” includes such Hannibal advice as “You a ho if your Facebook is complicated/Eat your fruit fiber bitch or get constipated.” I’m taking nothing away from Open Mike Eagle’s effort, but Buress’ verse trails off into him sharing his scatterbrained thoughts on compact cars and still manages to be the most memorable part of the whole album.

The closer here, “Big Pretty Bridges (3 Days Off In Albuquerque)” ends the album on both its highest point artistically, and lowest emotionally. A few piano keys and a pitched-up vocal cue the start until an uncharacteristically heavy bass touches down. The synth on the hook is somewhat distorted and perfectly matches Mike’s equally distorted and gentle coos. Its opening verse has some of his most honest lines on an album full of them. He closes it by saying, “Every sentence that I write, my muse, feels like it could be tighter/There’s a small chance that we can’t connect cause we’re too differently wired.” For an independent rapper planted firmly on the far left, it’s got to be difficult to speak directly to your fan base like that and tell them you understand why people might not like you. It’s the darkest moment on the album and allows it to fade out with the best example of the cathartic beauty that encapsulates the previous 12 tracks.

Dark Comedy won’t hit you hard, if it hits you at all. Even though it’s the most high profile album he’s put out so far, it’s Open Mike Eagle’s most subtle too. He’s made a smart album that doesn’t sacrifice its integrity. Make no mistake; you will never under any circumstance hear this playing at a house party or rave, but that’s for the best anyway. You wouldn’t hear a comedy routine there either. It’s an album that proves that sometimes, a bass drop isn’t always as important as a deep thought hidden behind a chuckle.

Open Mike Eagle: Dark Comedy [Album Review]

Dark Comedy, Open Mike Eagle’s fourth solo album, is pretty hard to classify. I mean, it falls squarely under his brand of forward thinking “art rap,” but who even knows what that is? Dark Comedy is a singular album without anything to truly compare it to, even from the oddball camp that is the bulk …

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Source: Kevin Nottingham

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