Open Mike Eagle raps like a stand-up comedian. He has a knack for turning even the most mundane experiences into one-liners that are just as idiosyncratic as they are clever and has created a strong following among the indie rap scene. His most recent release, “What Happens When I Try To Relax,” is a six-song EP filled with quirky humor and mellow production. Across the project, Eagle’s rapping and singing are delivered in his characteristically measured, occasionally hushed tone. The pulsing, futuristic beats that ride under the vocals create a mesmerizing atmosphere that is a perfect soundscape for some of the rapper’s most personal lyrics yet.
The first song on the EP is the single “Relatable (peak OME).” The aptly-named track explores just how much effort goes into being someone who is, in fact, relatable. “When I get nervous say something relatable,” Eagle opens the track, “I’m hella relatable.” His rapping carries a certain ironic tone, and the listener gets the sense that no matter how hard he tries to be relatable, Eagle never feels like he quite gets there. Even though he watches “Undateable” and has a broken garbage disposal, he is still cynical, uncomfortable and maybe a little too intelligent for his own good. Despite the nervousness and insecurity alluded to in the lyrics, Eagle confidently crafts his anxieties and musings on everydayness into a dynamic and compelling track.
“Every Single Thing” is a quieter cut than “Relatable (peak OME),” but is just as bold lyrically and takes broad swipes at American political culture. It deals with a lot of the same themes as his 2017 album, “Brick Body Kids Still Daydream,” offering a kind of retrospective on the concepts presented there. That being said, the ideas are compelling enough for the song to stand perfectly fine on its own, which it does here.
The following song, “Microfiche,” is the tracklist’s odd duck. It features the record’s fastest flow and most scattered songwriting but is also the quietest cut on the record. Additionally, Eagle’s whispered singing perforates the track after the second and third verses. The result is hypnotic, but the moment passes quickly before the next song kicks in.
“Single Ghosts” is one of the quirkiest songs on the EP. A reworked version of the track “Dating Ghosts,” which Eagle dropped on the Halloween of 2017 and shortly after removed from all internet services, the song talks about trying to pursue a romantic relationship with someone who is sending mixed signals and does not seem to be fully invested. A funny literalization of the phenomenon of “ghosting,” the track talks about the girl Eagle is trying to connect with as if she were actually a ghost. “You post online and you haunt with that/ you both dead and alive, like a quantum cat,” he raps near the end of the second verse. This kind of wordplay runs throughout the song, and it is undoubtedly one of the album’s highlights.
The closing sequence is comprised of “Southside Eagle (93 Bulls)” and “Maybe Gang (an initiation).” On his Twitter, Eagle mentioned that the 93 Bulls which are referenced on both tracks “are both a gang and a secret society,” and that the latter track is actually an initiation to the group. Concerning “Southside Eagle (93 Bulls),” the rapper tweeted, “the entire project was an excuse to write 'southside eagle'. I really wanted to write a song that was uncomfortably honest about my personal economy.”
Taken together, the two songs juxtapose to provide a solid conclusion to the EP. “Southside Eagle” deals with displacement and isolation in the rap industry as Eagle maintains his own independent career and tries to keep his life in order. On “Maybe Gang (an initiation),” by contrast, he illustrates himself as confident, secure and bold. It is the EP’s closing song and its most brazen one: It shows a rapper who, try as he might, can never completely relax.
Edited by Siena DeBolt | firstname.lastname@example.org