A decade ago, Open Mike Eagle and Hannibal Buress were asking ‘WTF is Art Rap’, on Eagle’s characteristically candid and inventive debut. “Whoever wins this art rap battle gets a lifetime supply of hummus!” they joked. Now, his new album Anime, Trauma and Divorce asks, ‘WTF is Self-Care?’. “It’s like seeing what my body needs / Maybe that’s a lot of weed?” he raps, his cadence somewhere between stand-up, spoken word and therapy session. In the decade between these two albums, Eagle has become a standout artist in leftfield hip-hop. His wit and varied artistic sides gave albums like Brick Body Kids Still Daydream immense staying power.
Where that record had city-wide scope, Anime, Trauma and Divorce is his most vulnerable, diving into personal shortcomings and messy life events. He raps with his son twice. There’s a song about Black Mirror ruining his marriage. ‘Headass (Idiot Shinji)’ is basically Eagle roasting himself for three minutes without taking a break. Highlight ‘Sweatpant Spiderman’ is a midlife crisis anthem balancing positivity and panic.
Eagle doesn’t think he’s doing so great, but this collection reflects clear artistic growth. The eerie hip-house of ‘Bucarati’ relies on a barebones hypnotic flow to grip it together. ‘Edge of New Clothes’ is the most knotted and meditative thing he’s written. He’s working at the height of his abilities.
Like his friend Thundercat, Open Mike Eagle finds hope in nerdy interests on ‘I’m A Joestar’, a weirdly uplifting tribute to anime fandom. This record will earn the cultish acclaim coming its way.
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