Following his slow, decade-prolonged ascent from laid-off schoolteacher to buzzing indie star, Los Angeles rapper Open up Mike Eagle experienced a collection of setbacks. In 2019 he and his wife divorced, a reunion with his outdated rap crew Hellfyre Club fell apart, and his Comedy Central range exhibit, The New Negroes, was canceled soon after just one season. People upsets sort the backdrop to Anime, Trauma and Divorce, the rapper’s whimsical and introspective acquire on an aged trope: the break up album. By turns goofy and pensive, the record uses pop society as a motor vehicle for self-evaluation and restoration.
The album’s titular subjects are connected by Open Mike Eagle’s relentless hunt for relief—from panic, from awkward cases, from the economic pressure of creating new music independently (a very long-jogging concept in his operate). His signature manner is a form of sharp-eyed repose, an outlook bolstered by his easygoing delivery. No matter the topic he’s addressing, be it police violence or living paycheck to paycheck, he speaks leisurely, as if conquering challenging scenarios usually starts with reframing them, having them at your very own speed.
Anime, in this perception, is Eagle’s ideal velocity. Beloved for its expansive tonal vary, which can accommodate situations as surreal as robot warfare or monster invasions and as mundane as large college romance—and occasionally all of these factors at once—anime normalizes whiplash. Eagle faucets into this good quality all through the record, indulging his fantasies and admitting his powerlessness outside the house of them. As he bounces nimbly concerning confessing his burdens and wishing them away, he binds the two modes jointly.
The singsongy “Headass (Idiot Shinji)” nods to the protagonist of Neon Genesis Evangelion, a depressed boy who grudgingly finds himself at the middle of a war between robots and monsters in postapocalyptic Tokyo. “Ass, on my head / Headass, I’m a head,” Eagle chants in self-mockery. The track is a lot less about identifying as Shinji, whose anxiety and loneliness length him from the other characters, and additional about supplying people insecurities condition. As a result of Shinji’s struggles Eagle understands himself, a recognition that also characterizes “I’m a Joestar (Black Power Fantasy),” his enthusiastic ode to the anthology sequence JoJo’s Bizarre Experience. “It’s my transform, it’s my season!” he declares more than springy percussion and vibrant synths. His pleasure is definitely honest. He requires a get.
Occasionally Eagle’s pop lifestyle totems converse back to him. On “The Black Mirror Episode,” he fifty percent-jokingly credits the dystopian display with ruining his relationship. “Saw a black mirror and it looked like us,” he shouts over a menacing bass line and metallic drone. On “Sweatpants Spiderman,” a nod to a edition of the superhero who’s single and deflated, he sighs at the emptiness of retail therapy. “Tattoos, haircuts, gold chains, anime / Tattoos, tattoos, tattoos, tattoos,” he laments, recognizing he cannot simply obtain a contemporary start off.
Pop tradition has been a refuge and a muse for each technology of rappers, from Run DMC’s anointing of Adidas to the Wu-Tang Clan’s enthusiasm for martial arts flicks and Kendrick Lamar’s appreciate of the 1990s sitcom Martin. Anime in individual is adored throughout eras, with rappers of all stripes smitten by the genre’s vibrant motion and high-stakes drama. There is an aspect of exoticization to this fascination: Anime’s coolness, as critic Sheldon Pearce notes in a survey of hip-hop’s really like of Naruto, is tied to its otherness. But the Japanese art form is also a pillar of storytelling, as is rap. Eagle continues this custom and helps make it his have the daydreams and fantasies that litter his verses convey the darker dimensions of typical daily life into sharper concentrate.
What is genuinely fantastical, he indicates all over the album, is his rap occupation. “Asa’s Bop,” a breezy observe anchored by a lovely, gibberish chorus carried out by Eagle’s adolescent son, pokes exciting at the precarity of his chosen career. “We belong / We fake we reputable / 50 percent Joestar / 50 % Shinji the fool,” he jokes. His evaluation, significantly of his fellow wayward rappers, stings simply because there’s no bitterness to it. He and his peers, especially those who select to be unbiased from the significant labels, are dwelling their dream it just takes place to be unglamorous and Pyrrhic. “Everything Finishes Previous Yr,” the album’s fulcrum, addresses Eagle’s failures head-on. Rapping in a weary sigh, he describes his relationship, his canceled show, and his defunct rap crew with a single, defeated descriptor: “ended.”
The album’s lithe, spectral manufacturing is as varied as Eagle’s producing. Generated by a corps of rap and electronic producers and mixed by Jacknife Lee, a veteran rock engineer and producer, the beats alternately smolder, coating Eagle’s verses in darkness and shadow, or shimmer, imbuing his rhymes with warmth and light. These vibrant but weightless arrangements in no way overshadow Eagle’s racing ideas, fitting the album’s topic of existence and candor. “Death Parade” and “WTF Is Self Care” audio like they have been recorded reside from his mind.
Eagle has explained this record as a significant departure from his earlier get the job done, which tended to heart his observations alternatively than his thoughts. Feelings are unquestionably far more pronounced in this article than in his prior music, but he remains guarded, as on “Bucciarati,” an additional nod to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. “Part of me struck an first trauma / Aspect of me wears an invisible armor,” he raps, his words and phrases coded nevertheless weighted. The music as a whole is a variety of temper board of dread, with Eagle mapping out his distress rather than confessing it outright. What stops the song from sensation withdrawn is his audible pain, manifest in each his frantic delivery and a vocal filter that lowers his voice to a despondent garble. Though he’s not inclined to title his woes, they form his performances.
The album’s psychological journey ends with Eagle asserting his vulnerability in a comparable fashion. “I was all right wherever we went, now I ain’t bought no far more armor,” he sings on the outro of “Airplane Boneyard,” the place among “I” and “we” vast and remaining. Anime, Trauma and Divorce does not provide a neat kiss-off or heroic rebound. Eagle’s flights of fancy guide him back to his beginning point as a divorced dad and indie rapper recovering from a rough calendar year. He simply cannot alter the earlier, but he can consider solace in the small delights that assistance him push ahead. He sounds relieved.