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Bringing Chicago flair to LA’s underground hip-hop scene, Open Mike Eagle oozes old school cool, with skater-street grunge. His latest release Dark Comedy, consists of 13 tracks of meticulously crafted comedic sketches, presenting rap that is refreshingly inspired from films and books rather than ego. With varied concepts, he leans towards introspection and humor, believing himself to be a satirist.

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Seeing colors and universality in music, he states that the outlet stands as a superior form of communication, at times translating emotions, sensations and ideas better than words. As “the only thing we have that [doesn’t] need anything to [create it],” music provides a voice if nothing else. And yet, despite his connection and appreciation for the art, his greatest challenge is not knowing how to fully communicate his musical ideas.

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Starting to rap, breakdance and do graffiti in high school, his style has since developed in intricacy and intellect from the release of his first album in 2007 to the hugely successfully release of Dark Comedy. Divulging that he has become bolder and more courageous in his music, he has worked to challenge himself by testing out an array of rap-style approaches; and in his process has come to “embrace almost every cadence-style there is.”

“There’s lots of electronic music in my sound,” he says. “My ears like it better than a lot of other approaches.”

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At the same time, he strives to create music that is more than just something to listen to—to honor the genre and inspire rap listeners to expect more from its practitioners. And so he pours himself into his music—raw, open and real. Moved most by grief with a belief that vulnerability is the ultimate strength, he states, “If you’re vulnerable long enough you learn that nothing can truly hurt you.”

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In addition to his solo work, Open Mike Eagle is also part of a collective called Hellfyre Club who released a mixtape, and had a tour earlier this year.

He says, “We are all super-powered.”

Something interesting about him that no one else knows:

“I split my pants during soundcheck the other night.”

The last thing he learned:

“Bring two pairs of pants.”