Open Mike Eagle Gives an Earnest Look at Adolescence and Community on ‘Brick Body Kids Still Daydream’

Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is the latest album from Los Angeles-based emcee Open Mike Eagle, and is yet another great addition to his already impressive catalogue. Mike is known for his quirky abstract lyricism, so it is no surprise this album’s concept is difficult for listeners to fully wrap their head around. While it is still an amazing listen without reading into the lyrics, listeners can’t fully appreciate its brilliance without attempting to unravel what Mike is saying.

This album is heavily influenced by Mike’s upbringing in the now-demolished Robert Taylor Homes, which were a series of high-rise apartment complexes in South Side Chicago. On “Brick Body Complex” Mike equates himself to his childhood building, even rapping from its perspective on the verses. This is partially due to his brick body shape, characterized by broad shoulders, no waist, and chunky legs, but also because he sees himself as a product of his neighbourhood. The building is an extension of himself and even after it falls he will be there standing tall for it. He describes it with such loving detail that you begin to root for it, seeing it as more than just “stone tablet on stone tablet.”

On “(How Could Anybody) Feel at Home” Mike introduces the gentrification of South Side Chicago through the building’s residents arriving at their local bar only to find it closed. It factors in this dramatic irony where we as the listener know the whole neighborhood is going to get bought up soon, but the characters within the track are unsure what exactly is going on.

It almost feels like Mike is going back in time and pleading to the land developers to not demolish his home with chilling lines like “I’m old granite, I’m not a tomb.” He recognizes that life there was far from perfect, with its sleepless drug dealing and domestic violence, but points out how many decent people were left essentially homeless. Even the drug dealers started as children who only did it as means to survive. On “No Selling” Mike delves further into how kids in his neighbourhood were conditioned from birth to hide their emotions. This furthers the metaphor of the residents representing the building because they have to toughen up to survive the harshness, or become brick bodied.

“Happy Wasteland Day” takes all of the societal factors previously discussed and gives an earnest look at his reaction to President Trump, affectionately referred to as the “garbage king,” and the overall state of America. Mike cleverly uses the undead as a symbol for the resurrected state of racism and remarks that we are “now all in a zombie movie” with the only weapon being common sense. Mike does express a desire to use more tangible weapons, something he seems more prone to in the second verse where he dares the police to lay their hands on him. Mike getting this aggressive is not typical of him, but it results in one of the best verses of the year.

With all the chaos present in Mike’s life he is in desperate need of an escape; on “95 Radios” he can be found digressing into his daydreams. The track finds Mike solemnly recalling a day in his childhood where the power was out and they spent the whole time looking for a radio without any luck. This inability to locate a radio could be interpreted as a subliminal jab at the modern rap scene for losing touch with its roots, but is more likely a symbol for Mike’s constant struggle to stay connected with his past and never forget where he came from.

Even if some tracks on this album are difficult to comprehend, like the seemingly random “Tldr,” they all likely have a place within the overall concept that will hopefully become evident upon more listens. The ideas presented on the album may not be anything listeners haven’t heard before, but the way Mike packages them brings them into a more relatable perspective and really gets the listener thinking. While an album like To Pimp a Butterfly spells nearly everything out for you, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is quite the opposite, with many of Mike’s lyrics being borderline indecipherable. His style may take some warming up to, but this is one of the best rap albums of the year, so definitely don’t sleep on it.

Grade: A

Recommended Tracks:
“(How Could Anybody) Feel at Home”
“Happy Wasteland Day”
“Brick Body Complex”

(Featured image: Mello Music Group)

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