Album Review: Open Mike Eagle + Paul White – Hella Personal Film Festival

By Diana Powers, Contributor

[Mello Music Group; 2016]

Rating: 8/10

Key Tracks: “Admitting the Endorphin Addiction,” “Check To Check,” “Smiling (Quirky Race Doc)”

After the release of 2014’s Dark Comedy and its 2015 follow-up A Special Episode, Chicago-native and L.A.-based rapper Open Mike Eagle has established himself as one of the most promising, yet often overlooked, voices in underground rap. Hella Personal Film Festival is a collaboration with U.K. producer Paul White, and each artist really compliments the other.

The first track on the album, “Admitting the Endorphin Addiction,” makes for a very strong opening. A funky, 80’s-esque bass line with heavy drums set up the rest of the album’s sound. Lyrically, Eagle raps about one’s realization of their addiction, which also sets up the album’s theme of personal feelings and issues. “Admitting the Endorphin” is one of the album’s strongest tracks, with White and Eagle’s collaboration at its best.

Another standout, “Check to Check,” is a perfect example of Eagle’s observation of technology obsession. Over a fast-paced, synth-heavy beat, Eagle describes his phone obsession, proclaiming, “I won’t work without checking my phone first”. Themes of technology obsession and its toll on everyday life are where Eagle’s self-aware style shines.

On “Smiling (Quirky Race Doc),” Eagle delves into others’ perceptions of him as a black man. “Smiling (Quirky Race Doc)” showcases Eagle’s ability to discuss real-world issues in a humorous, tongue-in-cheek manner. In the track’s chorus, he sings, “It’s all fine and dandy when the show starts / Until then avoided like a ghost fart / It get ‘what up’s’ and nods but for the most part / Nobody smiles at me cause I’m a black man.” The term “ghost fart” lightens up the mostly serious chorus, giving it Eagle’s signature lightheartedness without taking away from the song’s social message.

Although Hella Personal Film Festival is generally a strong album, its unique sound is somewhat lost on the second track “I Went Outside Today (feat. Aesop Rock)”. The drum heavy beat becomes repetitive, and Aesop Rock’s feature feels bland. “I Went Outside Today (feat. Aesop Rock)” is not as creatively intriguing as other tracks on the album, but does not significantly impact the quality of the album as a whole.

Eagle and White have joined forces to craft an album that brings out the best of both artists — White’s funky, irreverent beats and Eagle’s clever outlook on human nature compliment one another. As a whole, Hella Personal Film Festival comes across as the record that could get Eagle more mainstream recognition without compromising the relatable and humble nature that made his previous works stand out.

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