One famous Oscar Wilde aphorism claimed: "if you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise, they'll kill you." Open Mike Eagle lacks the capacity to tell anything but the truth. In a nation that prizes self-aggrandizing buffoons and artful liars, morbid humor might be the sanest response-a tourniquet to stop the toxicity from spreading.
If this sounds heavy, it's probably because it is. Dark Comedy, the Mello Music debut from the critically revered Los Angeles rapper, is mostly about the failure of Karl Marx's Proletariat Revolution. Yet its brilliance stems less from the novelty of its ideas than from the ingenuity of its wordplay, its caustic whimsy, and infectious melodies.
Opening track "Dark Comedy Morning Show" operates as a shorthand manifesto. For those who haven't heard, Eagle's bad at sarcasm, so he works in absurdity (when trying not to wish death on the upper class). The airing of grievances includes racial stereotypes, inner-city warfare and Facebook logging all of his favorite sandwiches. It's Slug's "Modern Man's Hustle" if the Atmosophere frontman had been haunted by James Baldwin's ghost instead of heavily tattooed exes.
Lead single "Qualifiers" finds Eagle subverting the notions of traditional rap braggadocio and lyrical terrain. His revolution isn't just some abstract political ideals, but at the crux of his approach to art. This is intended to dump Coconut Water and whiskey on the unsuspecting heads of those with false ideas of authenticity or what rap should be.
Lest you mistake him for a meditating yoga-panted rapper, the rapper raised on the Southside of Chicago, wields wordplay as sharp and weird as any of his peers. He proclaims himself "the King of all rappers who don't condone date rape." Molotov Cocktails are helpfully tossed from fellow conspirators Kool AD and comedian, Hannibal Burress.
Former hockey star Luc Robataille is rhymed with the Kobra Kai Dojo from Karate Kid. In the same breath, Eagle cracks about being too old to die. It's absurdity in the sense that Joseph Heller deployed it in Catch 22. He will live forever or die in the attempt.
If you're just tuning into Eagle's stellar career on album number four, the LA Weekly anointed him last year as the hottest thing in indie rap. Pitchfork called him a "whiz with matching easy-going hooks to intimate personal reflection." But Dark Comedy could be the best thing he's ever done-a record that captures the perennial struggle between art and commerce, the last half-century of widening class rift, and the need to be funny or die.
released 10 June 2014
Featuring: Hannibal Burress; Kool AD (of Das Racist); Toy Light
Producers: Alpha MC; Cohen Beats; Dibia$e (Dibiase); Driver (aka Busdriver); Elos; Illingsworth; Jeremiah Jae; Kenny Segal; Taco Neck; Toy Light; Ultra Combo
Executive Produced by Michael Tolle
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