One of the greatest creative abilities of Open Mike Eagle is his ability to make the most mundane aspects of everyday life sound way more fascinating than the reality. Since dropping his Unapologetic Art Rap debut five years ago, his clever wit and dry humor seemed damn near unparalleled. 2014 seemed like the moment mainstream music media really started to pay attention as it became a defining period for the Project Blowed member after dropping his Dark Comedy album. The streak continued a year later with A Special Episode EP and contributions to the alleged final project from the Hellfyre Club collective, Catcher Of The Fade. Being close buds with Hannibal Buress as he became one of the top comedians in popular culture helps a lot as well. Continuing Open Mike Eagle’s musical output which is slowly reaching Future levels(thankfully without losing quality), he recently dropped a joint project with frequent Danny Brown and Homeboy Sandman collaborator Paul White for Hella Personal Film Festival .
Straight from a flight from San Francisco, HipHopDX chats with Open Mike Eagle at a local Culver City, CA coffee shop to discuss working with Paul White, his friendship with Buress, hosting the “Secret Skin” podcast and World Wrestling Entertainment.
Open Mike Eagle On Recording With Paul White During His First Tour In London
HipHopDX: You just dropped the Hella Personal Film Festival project with Paul White. How do you feel about the reception of it so far?
Open Mike Eagle:I feel really good man. It’s weird man because this project is so inward. I remember we were almost done making it feeling very aware that this is not the rap of right now. It’s once again me asking a lot of questions. That was the part that I was nervous about. It sounds so different from what’s out there. Not that it’s better or worse. There was something that was happening from the beats that I was picking from Paul along with where the songs were going.
DX: Talking about the album in an interview recently, you talked about getting in contact with Paul during your first European tour opening up for Homeboy Sandman. Was it difficult taking in everything in that moment while recording album material?
Open Mike Eagle: I don’t get a chance to step back much and take shit in. You just gotta do it. There’s always logistical stuff. So, you can plan and be excited about it, but at the end of the day, I have to cross I’s and make sure I have stuff prepared and ready to record because we only had a limited time. I was more in work mode than in a place where I could step back and take it all in. First, tour in Europe and getting to do a project out there as well. It was super cool. I don’t get to see it that way in that moment.
DX: Can you describe the initial recording sessions with Paul and how that set the tone for the project?
Open Mike Eagle: The very first song we did was an internet collaboration. I picked the beat and just laid something down at the house. I sent it in and that was the first song on the album “Admitting the Endorphin Addiction.” That set the tone for everything, but I think it was important for me to see what the workflow was like before we got out there. Getting out there was cool. Just from having different experiences with people in the industry, you never know what to expect. Especially when you’re working with someone as talented as Paul. You don’t know what they’re going to be like. This is cool now, but what is it going to be like when I get there? Paul was so cool. That really helped me as I was outside of my creative comfort zone and cultural comfort zone.
DX: Was there something you took from the recording experience?
Open Mike Eagle: A lot of the experiences and thoughts I was having were put into the record. I had to write whatever I felt in the moment. I had some bars about my Oyster Card because I was taking the underground in London every day to get around. How much money was on my Oyster Card was a big deal to me. Even the song “Smiling( Quirky Race Doc)” where I talk about nobody smiling at me because I’m a black man. That was something that happened while I was in London.
DX: There’s a line there where you say “Every white guy isn’t racists and every black man isn’t a rapist.”
Open Mike Eagle: It was a vibe I was getting from people and it didn’t happen all the time. It was about an incident walking through London like damn. Immediately, the song started coming from me. That was it. A good half of the record was literally about the experience of me being out there for the first time.
DX: I remember talking to VerBS sometime last year about the Catcher Of The Fade project dropping out of no-where in which you were featured on outside of the A Special Episode EP. You’ve been apart of a lot of dope shit lately.
Open Mike Eagle: Thank you, man. It’s my job. My job is to make shit. If I’m not working, it’s stagnation in my life. Everything grinds to a halt if I’m not working on stuff. Being productive is key to advancing my situation. I’m always cooking something.
DX: What was even the plan for Catcher Of The Fade?
Open Mike Eagle: It came from the efforts of what use to be called the Hellfyre Club collective. The Hellfyre Club is still a label, but we were operating on a collective level too. It all started from that. After The Hellfyre Club transitioned we still had a bunch of songs. We were like, we have to put these songs out. Catcher Of The Fade really came out of that.
Friendship With Hannibal Buress & “Secret Skin” Podcast
DX: I remember watching one of your SXSW performances this year and Hannibal Buress hopped on stage with you. You two have a relationship that goes back fairly far.
Open Mike Eagle: We went to college together. I was his RA for about a year and we were all apart of this community of creative people in our college town. We all got together and had these events at a guy’s house. Rappers, comics like him, beat makers and spoken word artist use to do shit for each other and perform for each other. Our relationship started out of that.
DX: What’s that like even watching his rise into one of the biggest and most controversial stand-up comics today?
Open Mike Eagle: Behind the scenes, my brain still doesn’t know how to make of it. I don’t understand. You know what a celebrity is. I’ve never had the experience of knowing a celebrity and to watch that happen, I don’t know how to process it. I often think about what the psychological hazards of that must be like internally for him. I just wonder. It’s stuff I don’t normally want to talk about because he’s handling his life like a champ and killing it. He was hanging out at SXSW and we were just kicking it. He’ll be walking around and somebody will say, “that’s Hannibal.” Then people start acting weird and shit. He knows that’s going to happen, but he’s fine with it. He’s not one of those people who’s holed up. He’s enjoying his life even with all the craziness. It’s admirable. I’m not sure I’d be able to be that outgoing if everyone knew who I was. He’s killing it, man.
DX: I enjoy the podcast as well. You’re starting to see a lot of artists take that route. Can you tell the difference from being interviewed to being the interviewer?
Open Mike Eagle: At this point, I’ve done 55 interviews. It feels really natural to me now. My process for preparing for it and figuring out what I want to talk about feels pretty comfortable now. Interviewing is a craft and art form plus, there are radio and podcast guys that I listen to. My goal is to be that good one day. Most of the interviews involve asking people who are used to being asked a boat load of questions what they’re not used to being asked. I really enjoy it a lot.
DX: You have this ability to make the most mundane subject matter mad captivating. Where was the moment you realized that was your thing?
Open Mike Eagle: Probably the night I thought to myself, I’m going to write a song tonight. I didn’t know what I was going to write about. I was doing the dishes thinking about concepts or whatever. I decided to write about doing the dishes. To this day, that’s one of the best things I’ve ever written. It’s talking about the process of what I’m doing alongside what I’m doing in the larger context of my life. I get to start from that platform and go in all these different directions. It’s kind of like how I let my mind float. I was able to put that in there. It’s mundane but able to unpack universality of that.
DX: How do you maintain that self-awareness without going too far left?
Open Mike Eagle: I don’t know that I’m not too self-aware. I could be. My arrow is pointing to too much than not enough. I could and not know it. Only time will tell.
DX: How does tour life work for someone like you? I was reading a Forbes article where you broke that done pretty well.
Open Mike Eagle: I’ve made it really customizable in the last couple of years. What I talked about at length in that article was when I was doing it DIY mostly. I’m really glad that I had that experience. I’ve booked tours for myself like nationwide. I’m talking about cold-calling people like let’s get this show crackin’. I’m thankful for the experience, but it’s really rough man. It’s a rough way to get your art out there because it’s a lot of effort and risk.
DX: Now you have an agent.
Open Mike Eagle: Yup. Having one makes it easier. I can tour how I want to tour now. I don’t really like being on the road a whole month at one time. I’m not really into that shit. It’s not even necessary to do. The thing is that I do well in big markets. I do well in Seattle, Portland, L.A., Austin, New York, Boston, Atlanta, Minneapolis and San Francisco. I do well in those places. All you have to do to make those dots connect in one run.
DX: What was the ground work in building your fanbase over time?
Open Mike Eagle: The only thing that I know that consistently builds my audience other than appearances or getting on something big like TV because that’s the type of stuff you can’t control is putting out new projects. That’s the only thing that I can do. There are other things that I could do like increasing my video presence or a ton of thought and energy.
DX: The “Check to Check” video is pretty funny.
Open Mike Eagle: Music videos, I have that part down. I’m talking more about engagement videos which is something I really never do. If I did that it would help, but I never put that much energy into it. Other than that, the only thing I can do is put out projects.
DX: You thinking about the next project after this?
Open Mike Eagle: Yeah man, already working on it. I’m never not working man.
DX: Is it going to be more on the line with what you have out recently or Dark Comedy?
Open Mike Eagle: I’ll tell you something. I don’t know the differences between each project until you people tell me. To me, I’m just doing my thing. I’m not coming at it like this project is going to sound this way or that way. I’m just constantly making shit. What I do is group things together by theme. Once I have a collection of songs that I like, here we go and I start shaping the record from that.
DX: Even themes can be a differentiation.
Open Mike Eagle: That’s the thing, I don’t have a lot of stuff in front of my head. I’ll make a song in my head and see what the themes are. I kind of go from there in terms of titling and seeing what needs to go in it now. I’m like really far away from saying things like “if what I’m working on right now is going to be like this or that.” I have no idea or clue.
DX: Is there something you’re experimenting with at the moment?
Open Mike Eagle: Well, I’m writing songs about all sorts of shit. I wrote a song on the airplane coming here from San Francisco and I think I’m going to call the song “Permission.” It’s literally from my vantage point is telling someone they can do something if they want to. It’s very vague, but I really like it. I also have a song in my head about receipts, but not about physical receipts, but what things cost in any sense. What is this conversation costing me right now? I don’t know if those two go together, but I’m just working.
Calling Shawn Michaels & Ric Flair The Greatest Wrestler While Disliking Hulk Hogan
DX: You still have time for your Netflix intake?
Open Mike Eagle: I just watch wrestling all the time really.
DX: You watched Wrestlemania 32?
Open Mike Eagle: Heck yeah, I was at a festival performing with all these famous comics and shit. I’m in the green room the whole time watching it on my laptop. A small crowd gathered around me cause some people watching the festival was trying to watch it. It was dope. That’s my thing. I’m a fan of House of Cards and stuff. However, most of my visual intake is WWE programming which is 30 plus hours a week. It’s a lot.
DX: New Day’s Dragon Ball Z tribute, though.
Open Mike Eagle: The came out with the damn Saiyan suits on and shit. I mean to me, I hope that goes down in history of the greatest public display of black nerdom that has ever taken place. There were a hundred thousand people there and millions watching. These dudes came out of a giant box of cereal dressed like Saiyans. Xavier Wood’s hair did the Vegeta thing. You know what I mean? I hope that does not go unnoticed or not forgotten soon because that was a really awesome thing.
DX: Top two wrestlers of all time?
Open Mike Eagle: All time? I think Shawn Micheals is the best wrestler ever. I think there was nothing he couldn’t do.
DX: I was there for Wrestlemania 12 when it was at The Pond. That Ironman match…
Open Mike Eagle: With him and Bret Hart?
Open Mike Eagle: He won that match, right?
DX: Yeah it went into overtime.
Open Mike Eagle: He’s the best wrestler that ever was and Ric Flair is just incredible.
DX: Hip Hop has an interesting fascination with Ric Flair.
Open Mike Eagle: He’s just the epitome of arrogance, excess, but hella skill and talent. I remember when I use to watch him on WCW when I was twelve or eleven years old when that dude was with the Four Horseman and he talked about flying in on a jet from Barbadoes, I really believed that shit. I didn’t necessarily believe that the wrestling was real, but that guy was taking jets around. That’s how much of a command he had over his character in how believable he was.
DX: I’d pick Mick Foley and Ultimate Warrior.
Open Mike Eagle: Interesting choices. I’ve been watching Ultimate Warrior a lot recently cause the WWE Network has a bunch of old shit. He was a terrible wrestler.
DX: He was exciting as shit, though.
Open Mike Eagle: Man, energy wise, unparalleled. And the crowd would go ape-shit and he was a terrible wrestler. You remember when he won that Intercontinental Title for the first time? It was against the Honkytonk Man who had it for like a year. He had like an open announcement for a match. Then the Ultimate Warrior music comes on and everyone goes ape-shit. He runs into the ring and does two of the worst clotheslines I’ve ever seen in my life. Then he rolls him up and pins him. Everyone was going apeshit, but that was the worst match ever. That shit was awful in terms of the technical abilities.
DX: But, he was so lit . Probably coked up, but lit.
Open Mike Eagle: Yeah he was the OG definition of lit. If you ever watch the Wrestlemania 6 match against Hulk Hogan in the Skydome or whatever, this was like a football stadium or some shit. He runs to the ring. Usually, it’s 30 or 40 feet from the ring. He ran literally half a football field. It’s funny because, before the match, the officials were trying to tell him don’t run because he was going to be blown-up or winded by the time the match starts. But, he did anyway. By the time he and Hogan had the initial staredown, he’s already huffing and puffing. The match didn’t even start and he was gassed out.
DX: The Ultimate Warrior never walks to the ring.
Open Mike Eagle: When I think about it, Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair did it all. In ring, personality and all of that. Warrior is someone who had tons of charisma and energy and presence, but couldn’t wrestle for shit.
DX: Speaking of Hogan, any thoughts about the Gawker situation?
Open Mike Eagle : I don’t like him anymore. He really made me mad. And now he’s won a bunch of million dollars. How y’all let that man in the courtroom with a do-rag on? That’s bullshit. That’s foul.
DX: I fucked with Thunder in Paradise hard, though.
Open Mike Eagle: You can’t give a man special treatment and, he’s a muthafuckin’ racist. He has all this money now. I don’t want to hear about it. I just want him to go away. Take your money and go away. The reason I don’t like him is because he won’t outright apologize for what he said. He tries to rationalize it by saying he grew up around these people so it’s ok if he said it. You bogus and you know it. Say you’re sorry. If you can’t say you’re sorry, I can’t fuck with you.
DX: I prefer my racist like that.
Open Mike Eagle: Tuck it away. I don’t like it. Make me feel safe. I want to feel safe.
DX: I need to know who to avoid.
Open Mike Eagle:Man, I hear you. I’m not that man, though. I want you to lie to me. Because when you lie, I get to enjoy the same freedom you enjoy as a racist. Since you can walk around and do whatever you want, you lie to me so I can feel the same way. I don’t want to avoid anybody. You ain’t gotta avoid nobody, so why do I?
DX: My idea is based on personal and professional safety.
Open Mike Eagle: My idea is to get to the safety, you should just be safe. You shouldn’t have to think about that cause they don’t have to think about that. As long as we have to think about that, it’s still fucked up.
DX: I look at racist as just something else someone doesn’t like about me. I don’t like you because of your shoes, voice, the way your ears look, cause you’re black or some shit. For me, it’s about not fucking with those who aren’t in line with me.
Open Mike Eagle: That’s the same thing. If I don’t like your shoes right? I don’t have to say that to you. There’s no reason for me to say that to you. Unless you’ve asked for my opinion, there’s no need for me to comment on whatever you’re doing in your life. That’s your choice. I prefer it like that. If you got some bullshit to say, keep it to yourself.