On May 14, 1998 Seinfeld ended its nine season run. Known as the “show about nothing”, the 15 years spent in the early evening syndication slot has metamorphosized into a grey beast of normcore and overrated Wale mixtapes. It might have been about nothing, but the absence of definition has led to kitsch appropriation in its wake. Wale might claim to have seen every episode, but besides borrowing the show’s font for a mixtape cover, he’s never managed to internalizing the nuances of the humor. Open Mike Eagle has. So when he wrote “rap’s all postmodern / a bunch of style authors with no fathers” on “Nightmares” in 2011, understand he’d been properly coached on pop culture postmodernism thanks to Jerry, Elaine and George’s “no hugging, no learning” ethos.
Open Mike Eagle’s Dark Comedy is the first of three contracted albums to appear on burgeoning indie label Mello Music Group. The record arrives at a prime moment of exposure for the LA rapper, but crafting Dark Comedy was still about us coming to his world rather than Mike Eagle being less of himself to appease our own fickle attention spans. On opener “Dark Comedy Morning Show” he raps “to analyze this shit they’d need a whole different label for” and luckily he previously provided one, coining his genre “art rap”. Dark Comedy is faithful to his self-anointed lineage, a lane he’s cultivated since his 2010 debut on Mush, but mostly in the backend, while the first half of the record cruises on Mike’s artisanal brand of braggadocio disguised as self-deprecation (because even his self critique is wrapped in epigrammatic genius). From “Qualifiers” to “Doug Stamper (Advice Raps)” there’s a dual thread of ego and the absurdity of egoism when rap isn’t held as a grown man’s career. Open Mike Eagle is never one to inflate his station, and in that preservation of self, he is able to go deeper into his psyche on tracks like “Idaho” and “Very Much Money” (Ice King Dream).
Dark Comedy takes the “Ouroboros” page from Kool A.D.’s playbook (who shows up on “Informations”), as Open Mike Eagle becomes the father to his own style. Ritually Dark Comedy finds Open Mike Eagle revisiting past techniques. For example; “Informations” resembles the paranoia for NSA-advancement on “Password”, but with a greater capacity to joke, the opening bars on “Deathmate Black” is an update on hook from “Unapologetic” from Unapologetic Art Rap, while “Doug Stamper (Advice Raps)” is a slow version of “Universe Man” featuring Hannibal Buress instead of Serengeti. This is also not the first time Buress appeared on an Open Mike Eagle record.
Dark Comedy is impressive in that it manages to stall the world of Open Mike Eagle without lapsing into cruise control—no learning, no hugging. It’s a catch-up record for the many newcomer to his art rap that he’s earned in the past year with appearances on Marc Maron’s podcast, palling around with Burress and comedians like Paul F. Tompkins, plus signing to Mello Music Group. For those signed on since Unapologetic Art Rap, Mike’s fourth album is like watching Seinfeld since the pilot—we’re laughing ahead of everyone else because we know all the inside jokes. With the exception of minor disturbances like low vocal mixing on “Dark Comedy Morning Show”, it also manages to be his strongest album to date; accessible yet uncompromising in identity. Much like audiences were initially unaccustomed to Seinfeld, Dark Comedy has the potential to be Open Mike’s Season 4. What’s beneficial for Mike Eagle are offerings like “Deathmate Black” and “Build Pretty Bridges”, which are almagamations of writing the same song (show?) a dozen times over to share with a dedicated core only to have the perfected versions broadcast to the Neilsens.
post-script: fuck Redding, California.