Open Mike Eagle and Paul White’s new album Hella Personal Film Festival is one about opposites interacting. The thesis of the album is completely shown in White’s production, which utilizes classic, warm sounding samples with heavy digital soundscapes.
The production style jarred me initially; it is unlike any production I have heard before.
It is reminiscent of Kanye West’s first two albums The College Dropout and Late Registration.
On these two albums, West used his classic style of production of sped up soul samples that give the singers a chipmunk-like voice. While White doesn’t verge on this, it is similar in taking an analog warmness and warping it. It gives the entire project an air of dysmorphia.
It often feels like White is trying to mix water and oil, and the parts are in no way combining. But the weird thing is that I really enjoy it. It sounds disjointed and strange, but it really works in a way that is totally surprising. The intro track “Admitting the Endorphin Addiction” is an excellent example of what the album will sound like using this dusty soul sample over a Pro Tools style beat.
Beyond the production, Open Mike Eagle is in rare form here. For those unfamiliar, Eagle is not a stranger to reinventing his own sound. Eagle put his name on the underground rap landscape with his first solo album Unapologetic Art Rap in 2010.
Since then, Eagle has been constantly changing his sound from his choppy, music-box sound on Art Rap to the harsh, cold 2012 album 4NML HSPTL to his latest album Dark Comedy, which was quiet and contemplative and relied more on singing rather than rapping.
The major through-line that follows Eagle throughout his work is this sense of soul searching and personal thoughts.
Mike is not looking to change racial issues in America, but rather he thinks about how it affects him on a personal level. It’s not like Mike cares about politics at large, but rather personal politics.
This is what I love about listening to Open Mike Eagle’s discography; it lets me see what Mike was thinking about at that time. And Hella Personal Film Festival continues this in spades. Much like White’s production, Eagle is thinking about paradoxes and binaries.
In the memorable cut “Smiling (Quirky Race Doc),” Eagle discusses everyday racism and conflict in his life. In the lead single “Check to Check,” Eagle is discussing the modern addiction to technology and social media.
This is what is great about being a fan of Open Mike Eagle.
It’s not like I am looking to his albums for the capital-t Truth; I am just wondering what my friend Mike thinks about this.
Eagle uses a mix of his sing-rapping, much like Drake, with straight-up rapping.
The album finds Mike rapping with a ferocity he has not used since his second album, Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes, while also singing with a sensitivity he has never used before.
Hella Personal Film Festival finds the MC at a unique stage in his career and it is definitely an opportunity for new listeners to become fans.
I implore everyone to check out this album; I guarantee it will be unlike most rap albums you have heard.
Pat O’Donnell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org