Open Mike Eagle - Sir Rockabye
Release Date - July 7, 2013
Record Label - Hellfyre Club
Track for track, there wasn’t a 2013 rap release better than Open Mike Eagle’s Sir Rockabye EP. You won’t find it on many year-end lists because of its length (5 songs) and the fact that it was a free project that seemed to drop out of nowhere, but it’s an incredible release that deserves more attention than it’s garnered to this point. Often artists drop free EP’s between albums to keep their names out there and to find a way to release b-sides that didn’t survive album cuts, but that’s clearly not the case here. The brilliance of each and every song on Sir Rockabye had me wondering how high to set the bar for Mike’s forthcoming 2014 album(s) if this collection of songs was offered up for free.
I highlighted the creative single “Degrassi Picture Day” for WLFY a couple months ago because of its crossover appeal, but you could single out any of the EP’s five tracks as a song of the year contender. The Quelle Chris produced “Middling” is one of the rawest straightforward rap songs Open Mike Eagle has ever made and addresses musicians (and people in general) who are “about as edgy as Bob the Builder” and play it safe rather than taking a chance. There aren’t many songs I’ve enjoyed listening to more this year than the catchy NSA protest tune “Password (tiny man raps)”, especially the escalating, visual 2nd verse which is my single favorite verse of 2013. Open Mike is often put in the ‘Alternative Rap’ box because of his versatility and often experimental approach, but he proves with songs like “Middling” and “Password” that he can spit with the best of them in the traditional sense while still bringing the same level of thought and wordplay that he does to his more freeform offerings.
Despite the EP’s short length, Open Mike’s ever-increasing artistic range is on full display as well. He sings or raps the hook for every song and sometimes blends the two so well (on both the hooks and the verses) that you can’t really call it singing or rapping. The jazzy production from Moka Only and breezy, nostalgic verses from Mike and Has-lo make “Clean It Up” sound like a Native Tongues affiliated track from ’94 while the brutally honest (“But nobody but your momma give a fuck ‘bout what you feel like so…”) “Mef’s Lament” cleverly flips an old Method Man line into a psychological head trip of a song that only Open Mike Eagle could make. He’s quickly becoming the type of artist that’s impossible to pin down. Just when you think he’s released his defining work and has settled into a groove, he expands his range in a direction you never saw coming and does it better than you ever could have imagined. 2013 might have been the first year in a while that Mike Eagle didn't release a full length album, but he clearly wasn't taking a break.