Open Mike Eagle "A Very Special Episode Of. . " EP Review

★★★★ by Sketch tha cataclysm

Will holding Uncle Phil in a tearful embrace as he questions why Ben Vereen doesn’t love him. Jessie Spano singing an off-key accapella rendition of The Pointer Sisters’ classic “I’m So Excited” flying off of caffeine pills. Arnold and Dudley’s encounter with a pedophile due to their love of bicycles. And now. . . Open Mike Eagle blessing us with a 6 song collection of dope rhymes, vocals, and beats. Haha.

A Very Special Episode Of is not so much a follow up but what feels like a continuation of the vibe and feel of Mike’s Dark Comedy, his brilliant fourth full length that dropped just last year. This EP was released by Mellow Music Group just as he began his nationwide tour with the Minnesota collective Doomtree this month.

LYRICS: ★★★★

Mike’s lyrics and delivery are at the utmost peak of awesome on this project.

“Dark Comedy Late Show”, Exile’s re-interpretation of the Toylight-produced “Dark Comedy Morning Show” from Dark Comedy, bursts the gate open on this project with great lyrics filled with social commentary and personal thoughts. “. . . And it’s close to an all-out war, with kids being murdered for being black and tall outdoors, they respond to demonstrations wearing Kevlar briefs when the main problem is nobody respects our grief. . .”

Vocal delivery changes, pacing, and his usage of singing kept me glued for the entirety of the project. His sort of start-stop style he employs on “Stay Still Awake” works perfectly with the metaphorical imagery of the morning after a party. His voice then floats the song to a close with his singing of the refrain “play fair, stay there”. This is juxtaposed beautifully with the EP closer “Ziggy Starfish (Anti-Anxiety Raps)”, featuring a more turnt up, choppy flow from Mike that comes off as a cousin to his classic “Qualifiers”. The bridge “Knee-deep in the center, only water divides us, same places, different continents, and my headspace is an island, I smoke freely through my problem, I’m tuned to radio silence, came to me while I was driving, right then, it was decided” leads to one of the catchiest hooks Mike has ever written.

I don’t want to miss out on mentioning the guest spots on “Trickeration” from fellow Hellfyre Club member Milo as well as the oft-unappreciated MC Paul Barman. The latter unleashes a torrent of internal rhymes such as “Keep receipts for price-gauge tax return, shacks and earn, give your taciturn ass a turn”.

BEATS: ★★★★

There seems to have been a progression of musical backing choices in the Open Mike Eagle catalog. With each project, it appears that Mike has gotten more and more of a handle of bringing cohesion to his projects with the beats he chooses. His first two albums and the EPs that appeared between and after them had more of a vibe of a collection of dope songs from a range of producers. 2012’s 4NML HSPTL seemed to start this shift toward a full album flow with its works all produced by UK producer Awkward, as well as coming closer to capturing the feel in production of Mike’s live beat editing in his performances. Dark Comedy beautifully carried that flow forward, even while returning to the multi-producer format of his previous projects.

A Very Special Episode Of. . . pairs Mike with production from Exile, Gold Panda, 2 from Illingsworth, Lo-Phi, and Cars & Trains. “He said I like beats that sound like Zelda towns. . . “ is a great way to describe Illingsworth’s first contribution “Split Pants In Detroit (Or Hyrule)”, a compressed drum 8-bit track punctuated by the inclusion of the sound of a Mario coin. “Stay Still Awake” features the brilliant Cars & Trains on production with keys and sparse drums dancing to a beautiful chord progression. The work Gold Panda put in on “Ziggy Starfish” could help easily get Mike some commercial airplay.


This EP feels more like the energy in the room during the more chill Mike Eagle live sets than probably any project he’s previously released. It starts and ends strong and has some dynamic to it to show his range. The physical CD came packaged in an Oregon Trail era 5" floppy disk (which seems to be his EP tradition). Even the track that felt the weakest to me, “Trickeration”, had a great beat and rhymes and had a welcome appearance by two awesome and interesting emcees.

If I had to offer any criticism that edged toward the negative, I would have to say that I really would’ve loved one more song to have the higher energy of the closer “Ziggy Starfish” earlier on in the project. I think that would’ve balanced the vibe of the other songs out a bit more for new listeners. The few folks that I played the project for, which had never encountered the gentleman’s work prior, all commented that he seemed to come alive at the end in a way that wasn’t apparent throughout and I guess I could see that. To me, this is an exhibition of range but, to the uninitiated majority, it could make the laidback nature of the previous 5 songs appear to be a lengthy build up to the energy of “Ziggy Starfish”.

Beautiful work as usual. I look forward to what comes ahead from the man.