Published Feb 24, 2015With last year's Dark Comedy, Open Mike Eagle established himself as an affable journeyman, a high plains drifter scrawling his raps on complimentary hotel stationary while thinking about his next move in Words With Friends. Featuring key assists from comedian and fellow Chicagoan Hannibal Buress ("Doug Stamper (Advice Raps)," which nods to a secondary character from the Netflix series House of Cards), and Das Racist's Kool A.D., the album was the Hellfyre Club member's most cohesive work to date, intellectual (and a touch irreverent) without bludgeoning its listeners over their heads with punchlines.
Six-song EP A Special Episode Of picks up where the Los Angeles-based rapper left off, ruminating about life on the road, obsessing over technology and trying to make sense of front page headlines over hazy, lost video game beats courtesy of producers including L.A.'s Exile and the U.K.'s Gold Panda. "Dark Comedy Late Show," which follows up Dark Comedy's "Dark Comedy Early Show," casts the rapper as a fictitious talk show host (complete with canned audience sound effects) peppering commentary on current events (Ferguson, NSA spying) with tongue-in-cheek pop cultures references (Adventure Time, U2's surprise iTunes album) often within the same breath. In the wrong hands, this could be a mess, but Eagle's greatest strength is that he's a natural conversationalist (not surprisingly, he also has a podcast in which he talks to hip-hop artists about life behind the scenes) who's not afraid to point out his own shortcomings.
The best example of this is the half-sung "Raps For When It's Just You & The Abyss," which cleverly interpolates the chorus of Broken Social Scene's "Anthems For A Seventeen-Year-Old Girl," and finds the rapper savouring little victories while worrying about how he's going to sell tickets to his next show. It's equal parts anxious and forward-looking, and proof that the 34-year-old who prefers to be measured in "Venus years" has plenty of miles left to travel and stories to tell. (Mello Music Group)