Published Mar 29, 2016Detractors complain that Open Mike Eagle's lyrics are opaque, tangential and often just plain bizarre, but that's short-sighted. Each of those attributes, instead, make him one of hip-hop's most distinctive voices. Those naysayers may change their minds thanks to Eagle's new collaborative album with producer Paul White, Hella Personal Film Festival. White serves up some of the most accessible beats that the famously eccentric MC has ever rhymed over, making Eagle a much easier taste to acquire. For example, the producer lays out a joyously funky groove for "Admitting the Endorphin Addiction." He also employs plodding vaudevillian piano and a sly whistle— reminiscent of Outkast's timeless classic "The Whole World"— on the "The Curse of Hypervigilance (In Politics, Romance, and Cohabitation)." Better still is "Drunk Dreaming," for which White uses synths brighter than the sun glinting through parting clouds.
And while White's beats are superb, they by no means outshine Eagle. He raps in a sing-songy flow that dovetails perfectly with White's production on "Drunk Dreaming." This will be a surprise for many fans, who have become accustomed to Eagle's cerebral lyricism unravelling at either a jarringly quick pace, or in slowly jumbled syllables. Listening to him adopt a more digestible delivery is a true delight, especially when that catchiness doesn't come at the expense of his lyrics. Indeed, "Drunk Dreaming," is not only seamlessly catchy, but it also features one of the album's best lines: "Every time I close my eyes/ A little Obama in a drone flies by." He also deftly touches on police brutality and inner city violence during "A Short About A Guy That Dies Every Night," spitting: "It's like Groundhog Day/ Every night ends with murder," after singing "Gunned down when it's sundown," in a gently rudimentary, but effectively melodic tone for the chorus.
That's not to say that Hella is a conventional album. "Protectors of the Heat" is plenty strange enough to satisfy Eagle fans who revel in his oddities (honestly, the song's chorus sounds like it's being sung by Oompa Loompas). But, for the most part, this is an album that boasts both accessible sonics and lyrical labyrinths. That means (unlike many of Eagle's earlier releases) Hella is an easy LP to get drawn into and (just like all of his other releases) it's also a joyous adventure to get lost in. (Mello Music Group)