Open Mike Eagle has long been one of underground hip-hop’s golden children. His poetic style and sharp wit has won him a lot of passionate fans, even if alienating a more commercial appeal. Eagle has always been content to do things his way and with last year’s Brick Body Kids Still Daydream we saw a more personal side of him than ever before. This album felt like an artistic peek for Eagle. This brings us to his new EP What Happens When I Try to Relax, and the first thing to note is this project is the first released on Eagle’s new self-made record label. This signifies a fresh change after being on the small label Melo for his last few records.
This EP is just 6 songs long and these tracks (as the title suggests) are Eagle playing around with ideas and opening his weird mind to us. The songs here are playful and delivered with the wit we’ve come to expect. The topics presented are as strange as they come, for example ‘Relatable’ sees Eagle trying to convince us a (little too hard) how in touch he is to the everyday person. Other topics includes relationships with ghosts, and the album rounds out with a mock gang initiation. Through these cuts Eagle shares personal thoughts and feelings with us, sometimes covered in his comedic style, and at other times more raw and open. ‘Single Ghosts’ is a curious exploration of what it’s like to see an ex who’s become distant to you, and ‘Southside Eagle’ is an honest take on his personal position in life and underground hip-hop, feeling like he’s still an outsider amongst big names even after so long. The sound pallet of this EP is light and breezy, which leaves room for fantastic lyrics and personality to shine through. Though, this hurts a few songs which have trouble differentiating themselves sonically from each other. While This EP lacks the cohesion which Eagle’s projects have had in the past, this one was never meant to be another Brick Body Kids Still Daydream. Rather a collection of ideas and ruminations Eagle wanted his fans to hear.
This EP is not going to win over anyone who wasn’t already a fan of Eagle. It was never meant to though, I get the feeling this project was really one for the fans. Unfortunately, I may not come back to this project much in the future, as it lacks the punch my favourite Eagle albums have. Nevertheless, What Happens When I try To Relax still stands as a strong and unique collection of songs; I’m excited for Eagle to explore this more personal route in the future.By Oliver Matheau-Raven