In July, members of Vinyl Me, Please Rap & Hip Hop will receive an exclusive pressing of Open Mike Eagle’s debut studio LP, Unapologetic Art Rap, which is being released for the first time ever on vinyl. Pressed on transparent blue vinyl, the album has a brand new cover as well. You can sign up over here.
You can read our interview with Open Mike Eagle here. Meanwhile, you can read below for more on why we picked Unapologetic Art Rap.
Unapologetic Art Rap is the 2010 solo debut album from Open Mike Eagle, a Chicago-raised, L.A.-based MC from the lineage of Project Blowed. Emerging from the embers of the bling era, the rap mainstream predicated itself on new adventures toward high fashion and even higher Art. While the current slowly began to drift toward weirder pastures, a new section of the underground was drafting its response in the inception of the “art rap” label: a sonic and thematic demarcation of traditional rap archetypes in search of other places and politics. In short, art rap is from the left-field, canonizing experiences and perspectives gone otherwise unrecognized in the popular narrative.
Open Mike Eagle did not coin the term, but was pivotal in its proliferation as a safe haven for Black folks making Black art that didn’t fit the predetermined margins. It comes not from elitism, but from building a language and aesthetic from whatever you dream of. Unapologetic Art Rap is a seminal work in the art rap canon, and the first foreshadowing of Eagle’s decade-plus career: effortlessly witty and rebelliously off-kilter, merging the relatability of the everyday mundane with a hypertextual awareness of politics and pop culture. It’s rap for the folks who hate their jobs, raise their kids and may never afford to buy the car with the supercomputer inside.
Over glitchy boom-bap and murky electro-soul, Open Mike Eagle ponders all things typically intangible and painfully normal. The Mike Eagle of this time is skeptical of himself and God, of his own intentions and the ramifications of the rap game he loves so much. With a supporting cast of L.A. underground royalty — Busdriver, Serengeti, Nocando, Alpha MC, Jefferson DeJesus, the Swim Team — Unapologetic Art Rap is never afraid to interrogate itself as much as the world, without the assumed loftiness from its very existence. It’s dense and fun, a textbook on technical skill, and a survival guide for all the little victories and heartbreaks of this filthy, messy life. For an extended glance into the freedom of independent rap in response to the pitfalls of the monoliths we’ve built for ourselves, look no further than this odd little first step toward a greatness we’ve never seen.
Michael Penn II (aka CRASHprez) is a rapper and a former VMP staff writer. He's known for his Twitter fingers.