Artist of the Month: Open Mike Eagle

by Dustin

OME

Have you ever found yourself sitting at home wishing you had music in your library that you could really relate with? Not just emotionally, but also in terms of the small day to day things you want to tell people, but don’t because you’re afraid of boring your friends with another complaint about your kids smearing pasta into the couch? If this is something you’ve been looking for in music, look no further than the Chicago-born-Los Angeles-based Open Mike Eagle.

Also, he is Extraordinary Nobodies’ featured artist for March 2016! So, if that’s a deciding factor for you, now you know that you’ll enjoy his music.

Finding his beginnings with Project Blowed and Hellfyre Club, Open Mike Eagle now delivers his unique brand of any-man rap through Mello Music Group. His sound has evolved since he released his full length solo debut in 2010, Unapologetic Art Rap, but one thing has remained consistent: Mike is not afraid to put a musical spin on the small aspects of life that many will find themselves relating to easily. Perhaps most impressive is that he manages to take these things, which may seem banal, and turn them into entertaining music.

It’s something that seems rare for rappers to do, focusing on the small experiences that are often overlooked. At the same time, it’s refreshing and makes Open Mike Eagle seem like one of the most down to earth artists out.

G-g-get up and dance,
G-g-get up and dance,
I w-w-wipe my son’s ass,
And get shit on my hands,
Qualifiers

Putting the quirkiness aside, he is also talented at grabbing listeners through common struggles. Student debt, concern over the current social climate, and general anxieties are topics that frequently find their way into Open Mike Eagle’s music. He’s personal, but in a tasteful way.

‘Cause I was studying brine shrimp and parasites,
And learning how to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit,
With thick glasses and everything,
Supposed to have big cash when I’m seventeen,
From working in research labs with acetylene torches,
And a flying Porsche with leather wings,
But looking back I wasn’t too clever,
Cause I grew up to be the smartest broke dude ever .
Rent Party Revolution

It should also be noted that his production choices are generally fantastic. You won’t find big production in Mike’s work, the beats are generally somewhat simple in nature; however, they’re weird, buzzy, and suit his sound perfectly. Though he uses a variety of producers on his projects, fans will recognize names like Oddisee and Exile in the production credits of Open Mike Eagles work.

In fact, he even gave self producing a try on Time & Materials, the collaborative effort between Mike and follow whimsical rapper Serengeti. Though he won’t be producing his next full length album, he showed promise and raw talent as a producer.

Cause people want you to join ’em in a bad dream,
Miserable motherfuckers are quick to start a tag team,
I was pretty close to tapping out, they almost had me.
Bright Green Light

His music is very much alternative, and a lot of the time he’ll switch from straight rapping to songs that feature a singing-focused delivery. Is it perfect? Nope, but he does make it work with his music very well. He’s not afraid to step outside of his comfort zone and try something different (such as creating a concept album like Time & Materials with Serengeti). His releases feel cohesive, yet they all manage to have a distinct flavor.

It’s a good flavor, but one you wouldn’t expect, like pistachio ice cream. Open Mike Eagle’s music is pistachio ice cream. You heard it here first.

I’m far away from my house, wrote this song in the hotel room,
On a day of the show, got canceled, now this room feels like Bellevue,
Jupiter’s got twelve moons and there’s life forms on a couple of them,
Give a fuck if my plans fell through, if I’m deep purple or pale blue.
Big Pretty Bridges (3 Days off in Albuquerque)

Give him a look, at the very least you can say you tried something new. Isn’t that what music is all about?

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Artist of the Month: clipping.

by Dustin

clppng

At one point in the late months of 2014 someone linked me to clipping.’s release from a year earlier, midcity. One thing lead to another and… Well, I ended up binge listening to every scrap of material the hip-hop trio could offer. What I learned swiftly is that clipping. really isn’t your usual rap act even though the lyrical subject matter can seem familiar. In fact, they probably couldn’t be further from the norm.

If you’ve heard a single clipping. song in your life then you will know exactly what I mean. Let’s start with the production. That sexy, sexy production. William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes create some of the most abrasive (in all the right ways) and noisy instrumentals I’ve ever heard, yet they remain pleasing to the ears; moreover, I find their production to be incredibly atmospheric. My favorite example of this is the song Story 2. Though Daveed Diggs lyrics are rich with story-telling goodness, Hutson and Snipes’ production turn the song into a beautifully anxious and emotionally draining listening experience.

Seriously, did you just listen to that song? If you have to take a moment to let your heart rate come back down I wouldn’t blame you.

I should probably talk about Daveed Diggs now that I’ve mentioned him. Fun fact, he’s recently won a Grammy for some of his musical theatre work. Talented guy, and he’s also a pretty fantastic rapper. I would say that his greatest strength is his ability to lay thick descriptions in his writing effortlessly. As I mentioned earlier, Story 2 does showcase this, but it’s a pretty standard part of Diggs’ style. Take for instance the horrorcore flavored track from CLPPNG, Body & Blood (note: the video I’ve just linked to is most definitely not safe for work, you have been warned). He verbally paints a picture of the murderous female lead’s physical appearance and behaviors without forcing anything into the verse. It’s just lovely.

Well, as lovely as you can get when talking about a cannibalistic female serial killer, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Another thing about clipping. that I respect is their versatility within their own sound. On one hand, they’re masters of the ultra-abrasive tracks that are perhaps not so accessible. Intro is one of these songs. It’s loud, and it wants to permanently damage your eardrums to the point that you develop tinnitus (I say this with love, the sound is great). On the other hand, clipping. has put out songs like Summertime which are ridiculously smooth given the production style.

As a side, if you just listened to Summertime and don’t want to be cruising around in August with your windows down, I don’t know what to say. I know the subject matter isn’t happy, but you can still leave if you don’t agree with me. Seriously, there’s nothing more for you here because we will never agree on anything.

Just kidding I love you.

Allow me to issue a personal challenge to anyone who reads this article: listen to a clipping. project in full. I expect that the sound wont click with every single person that checks out their music, and that’s certainly okay. For those who end up enjoying the sound though (such as myself), you’ll find yourself pleasantly addicted to one of the most unique acts currently in hip-hop.

Here, listen to guns.up. Don’t even try to figure out what’s happening, just let it hit you. Just accept it.

A Reflection on Definitive Jux

by Dustin

In February of 2009 El-P would take to the internet to announce the permanent hiatus of Definitive Jux. A label which he co-founded after a falling out with Rawkus Records, where he previously was signed as a member of Company Flow. Definitive Jux would quickly establish itself as a powerhouse in the independent hip-hop world through many critically acclaimed releases at the start of the millennium.

Definitive Jux had an extensive discography over eleven years of operation. Today, in a celebration of life (in the loosest sense), we will take a look at four of the most important releases from the label. These are not necessarily the best records to come from El-P’s underground giant, but those which had a special significance.

thecoldvein

Cannibal Ox – The Cold Vein

According to a barely comprehensible letter written by Vast Aire about his beef with El-P in 2009, Cannibal Ox were not officially signed to Definitive Jux when The Cold Vein was released (though the validity of this statement can definitely be brought into question); however, it was the album that established the label as a major player in independent hip-hop.

It pushed boundaries in terms of production and vocal deliveries. The Cold Vein sold more than the label had predicted (over 60,000 copies as of 2012) and ended up being widely regarded as an underground classic, making it the foundational record in the Definitive Jux discography.

The greatest shame is that Cannibal Ox would go on to never release another album on the label. The group spiraled into dysfunction between 2002 and 2003, and eventually dropped from Definitive Jux. Vordul Mega began struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues, and Vast Aire began lashing out at members of Definitive Jux for various reasons (many of which were proven to be false) until sometime in 2011.

The group finally self-released their sophomore album fifteen years after The Cold Vein, yet it ultimately fell short.

Labordays

Aesop Rock – Labor Days

The Cold Vein was the album that really started it all, but Aesop Rock’s Labor Days would be the release that proved El-P’s label would not be a one hit wonder. Boasting gritty alternative-New York style production by Aesop Rock and longtime collaborator Blockhead, the concept album about America’s working class would far exceed label expectations.

One single from the album, Daylight, would be such a hit that it spawned an extended play sharing the same name the following year. Labor Days was the album that kept momentum rolling for the label, and pushed them forward into a string of critically acclaimed albums from multiple artists through the early 2000s.

Perhaps as importantly, this was Aesop Rock’s full length debut on Definitive Jux. Even though his final album release on the label would come in 2007, Aesop was perhaps one of the most prominent members on the Definitive Jux roster. Where Cannibal Ox would slow to a stop following their debut, Aesop Rock continued to put out quality releases on the label that sold respectably.

Illsleepwhenyouredead

El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead

I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead‘s release was an important transitional moment for El-P’s sound, but also for Definitive Jux. Unfortunately it would mark the beginning of the end for the label. I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead would ultimately spawn the final run of releases from big name artists in the New York collective. Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic, and Cage would all also contribute one final album a piece. Along with a few small scale albums and regional releases (often shared with other independent labels), these would be the last albums of Definitive Jux.

I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead was also co-founder and figurehead, El-P’s, final album on the label. Even though it didn’t set Definitive Jux up for success like The Cold Vein, propel the label forward like Labor Days, or mark the end of an era like King of Hearts, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead serves as an important part of the label’s time line.

Kingofhearts

Camu Tao – King of Hearts

Though Camu Tao’s King of Hearts was not up to the same standard of quality as I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, it is arguably the most important release in the Defintive Jux catalog. This would be the final release for the label, but more importantly the final release for Camu Tao. Having passed away after a battle with cancer, this album would be a sampler of unfinished snippets cleaned up by El-P following Camu’s death.

To put it politely, the album is incredibly rough; however, behind the roughness it seemed as if he was onto something with the sound. The amount of genre blending on the King of Hearts album is almost overwhelming. There are moments that sound electronic, hip-hop, and there even seems to be a significant amount of alternative rock influence.

As unfortunate as the circumstances were leading up to its release, King of Hearts serves as a fantastic bookend to the Definitive Jux era. Even in its unfinished state the album encompassed everything the label encouraged: it was innovate, off-kilter, and didn’t try to follow anyone’s lead.