For music followers of a sure age, the house stereo was greater than only a handy solution to hearken to music: It was a recording studio, a urgent plant, and a portal to different worlds. All-in-one element methods, the reasonably priced stereos that contained all of the items of a hi-fi system in a single compact black field—an amplifier, AM/FM tuner, CD participant, dual-cassette deck, and infrequently an equalizer—minted myriad newbie engineers within the ‘90s, democratizing entry to the instruments wanted to report, duplicate, and hearken to mixtapes.
As a child, the rapper Open Mike Eagle used a type of element methods to craft mixtapes spliced collectively from radio recordings. Replete with commercials and DJ monologues woven between his favourite songs, the tapes have been the soundtrack of his youth, the rating for numerous bus rides throughout Chicago’s South Aspect. It was a type of tapes, cobbled collectively from broadcasts on the native faculty radio station WHPK Chicago, that impressed Eagle’s newest LP, Element System with the Auto-Reverse. The report is a nostalgic journey via the rapper’s musical genesis and an exploration of the psyche of an artist who lately misplaced his spouse, his job, and a few of his closest pals. If 2020’s Anime, Trauma, and Divorce was an unflinching examination of all that he’d misplaced, this album solutions the query of what stays.
In rediscovering his previous mixtapes, Eagle finds that he’s the identical man he’s at all times been: a whip-smart comedian with acerbic wit, a “grown man with toddler habits” (a high quality that he will get from his father), and an old-fashioned hip-hop head who can rap his butt off, however can’t dance. He has lengthy written from a comic’s POV, and on this album, he as soon as once more leverages a bittersweet humorousness to assuage his painful consciousness of the world’s absurdity. His cleverness requires a sure diploma of popular culture literacy, and a few of his references—like 2Pac’s curious collaboration with easy, delicate ‘90s R&B crooner Jon B—may really feel historic to a zoomer. However these are the bars of a middle-aged man who nonetheless shares memes (“Who Among Us is mega sus?” he asks on “i’ll battle you”); they’re tightly packed nerd raps from a dad who’s quick-witted sufficient to maintain up along with his adolescent son.
The songs right here mirror each his embrace of Los Angeles (“crenshaw and homeland”) and his Chicago roots (“79th and stony island”); after faculty, the rapper left his hometown and has since toiled within the headier areas of L.A.’s hip-hop underground. There may be additionally loads of room for poignant introspection (“the track with the key identify”) and unabashed fandom of hip-hop greats (“for DOOM”). His selection of collaborators feels much less like clout-boosting streaming bait and extra like homies who can rap properly, which makes for a laid-back cipher vibe that reveals the album’s uncooked however fastidiously thought-about aesthetic. Its most frequent visitors are Video Dave and Nonetheless Rift, two rappers with backpacker flows and few credit that don’t contain Eagle. However even when he operates with extra well-known entities like New York’s acid-tongued duo Armand Hammer, he exhibits he can coalesce disparate types.