By Marvin Dotiyal, Staff Writer
[Mello Music Group; 2017]
Key Tracks: “(How Could Anybody) Feel at Home”, “Brick Body Complex”, “No Selling (Uncle Butch Pretending It Don’t Hurt)”
In this day and age when subpar mumble rappers reach the dizzying heights of popularity, Open Mike Eagle doesn’t shy away from speaking up. The demolition of Robert Taylor Homes, a housing project in Chicago infamous for gang violence dating back to the ‘60s, inspired Eagle to not only pay homage to the affected victims, but also to recapture an era of political struggle depicting racial oppression and poverty in his latest concept album, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream.
Starting off the album with “Legendary Iron Hood”, Eagle’s smooth, light rapping is accompanied by a combination of gospel-influenced piano and sporadic guitar licks. The subtle melody in Eagle’s vocals really creates a flow between his vocals and the instrumentals, complementing each other as a whole. The lyrics illustrate a hero named “Iron Hood,” a recurring fictional character that defends the housing project, which appears in the “Brick Body Complex” music video. In “(How Could Anybody) Feel at Home”, Eagle puts himself in the shoes of a Robert Taylor Homes resident, reimagining the trauma of slowly losing a home. The track is reminiscent of Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80 era sound with its rhythm-driven rapping and chill instrumentals.
Unlike most of the chill tracks on the album, “No Selling (Uncle Butch Pretending It Don’t Hurt)” is a gritty track with a haunting sample loop, which sets the mood of the song and becomes catchy with every listen. Eagle raps about playing it cool, trying to hide emotional and physical vulnerability, but most importantly not letting injustices get to you. Eagle wants to convey that the victims of Robert Taylor Homes had to stay strong and keep moving forward, even at the worst of times.
“Brick Body Complex” is the ultimate embodiment of Robert Taylor Homes. Eagle goes in depth with the history of the housing project, while also following Iron Hood’s “storyline” of defending the housing project and being a hero in the ghettos of Chicago. As seen on the album artwork, Eagle personifies Iron Hood as well as his own ideas and beliefs to defend the projects from destruction.
Open Mike Eagle’s vision is built upon a historical and political narrative, revealing the significance of Robert Taylor Homes in contemporary African-American culture and history. The main spotlight of the album is Eagle’s poetic songwriting and his attempt to shed light on an overlooked issue. The album is well-thought-out, but some songs can lose its essence by its repetitive, drawn-out sections that disrupt the overall flow. Regardless, Eagle’s latest does not fail to display depth and authenticity; he is able to tell a story creatively and make a statement within the span of 40 minutes.