Open Mike Eagle is super relatable. The gag on “Relatable (peak OME),” the lead single from his new project What Happens When I Try To Relax, is that he’s learned to cope with social anxiety by resorting to the most boilerplate small talk imaginable: “Remember that movie?” “I promise I really and truly remember you/ I’m not just pretending to.” “My garbage disposal is stuck on a vegetable/ I should call the professional/ Man, y’all look incredible, damn.” My favorite: “I fuck with millennials, cutting my cable too/ As soon as I’m able to.”
You’ve probably understood the irony by now. Eagle really is relatable if you’ve ever gritted your teeth through an awkward party or a chance encounter with a half-remembered acquaintance at the bar, which by my count includes every living human with an ounce of self-awareness. It’s easy to forge a personal connection with the Chicago-born, LA-based rapper and comedian — one of the cleverest and most insightful voices in music today — because he comes across as a truly authentic artist in a scene overrun with fronting.
Eagle’s funny enough to have a new Comedy Central series called The New Negroes on the way. As demonstrated by his recent turn as a pro wrestler, willing to throw himself completely into a project, no matter how ridiculous. He’s the guy who says what everyone else is feeling but not wise enough to articulate. And on the EP-length What Happens When I Try To Relax — his follow-up to last year’s great Brick Body Kids Still Daydream and the first release on his new label AutoReverse — he’s in top form. I mean, just look at this sequence from “Every Single Thing”:
Through my roots, I respond, react/ ‘Cause my folks need jobs and some Wozniaks/ In my nightmares I swear there’s Nazi blacks/ That say ‘Pull yourself up by your Huarache straps/ Y’all say something dumb and I swear to God/ I’ma pack up and run ’til I tear a quad/ I’ma look into the sun, I’ma stare at God/ I’ma get as big as Pun and the Terror Squad/ I’m comin’ off the top at the Hammerstein/ I won’t even stop when it’s Hammer time/ Memories is deeper than skeletons/ I say please, please know it’s all relative
Elsewhere he curses the NFL and evades the police on “Microfiche,” attempts to date an apparition on “Single Ghosts,” takes stock of his career on “Southside Eagle (93 Bulls),” and more, all artfully and with deft comedic timing. It’s all ridiculously good, so dig into it below.
What Happens When I Try To Relax is out now on AutoReverse.