July 16, 2012

Album Review: Mike Eagle - 4NML HSPTL

Way back when, in the infancy of my flooding the webbernetz with my very important opinions, I had a (non-paying) gig writing album reviews for a hip hop website. One such album I reviewed was by none other than Master P's little brother, p/k/a C-Murder. It wasn't my choice. Not that I didn't like No Limit. But C-Murder was to No Limit as, say, Scott Norton was to nWo Hollywood. Yeah, technically on the roster, but...c'mon. So I did what any too smart for his own good 17 year old would do. I wrote an incredibly mocking, scathing review. I think that was the last review I wrote for that site. What does the No Limit B-squad have to do with Mike Eagle's new 4NML HSPTL? Read on...

I had that C-Murder album for weeks before I reviewed it. It got to the point where I was getting forwarded angry emails from the people at No Limit/Priority from the website's owner. They wanted to know where the album was, and why they bothered sending the CD if I wasn't going to review it. Because I just didn't care about it, it was next to impossible for me to write about it. Similarly, I've had 4NML HSPTL for a few weeks now. My lack of a review to this point has nothing to do with not caring. I planned to review it before I even heard it. I figured that since I'm familiar with Mike Eagle's previous work, it wouldn't be too difficult to find an angle from which to write about the new album.

Boy, was I wrong.

And that's a good thing. Last year, I described Rappers Will Die Of Natural Causes as "extroverted introspection." This go around, the target audience is a room full of fun house mirrors where Mike alternately sees distorted and all-too-clear reflections of who he is and where he fits in the psych ward that modern hip hop has become. It's not a bunch of "woe is me" as much as it's "who is me?" The best way I can think of to describe the conceit, as I see it at least, is if Jackie Draper was a b-boy with a penchant for They Might Be Giants and Twin Peaks...he wouldn't have needed that goddamned dragon. This album would provide him with plenty to talk about.

That doesn't mean this album is all backwards talking and cloaked rhetoric. Mike takes to task those responsible for the country's miserable financial state in the bluntly titled "The Financial Crisis That Wouldn't Go Away." Thankfully, a sense of humor isn't considered contraband in the 4NML HSPTL, so Mike and Has-Lo are able to riff on everything from trap rappers to female Gucci Mane enthusiasts on "Your Backpack Past."

4NML HSPTL is Mike's most focused, cohesive album to date. It's also his most personal. Whether one is due to the other is debatable. Considerable credit should go to UK producer Awkward, who scores the entirety of the HSPTL. I say score because throughout you hear repeated synths and and bells and other weird sounds, that kind of clue you in to the context of the album at that particular point. Much like a movie's main theme will be reprised at key points. Even the more upbeat, dance-y beats seem to have ominous chords lurking just behind the curtain.

I'd be remiss if I didn't touch on Mike's song writing. I'm telling you, this guy has the pop sensibilities to write an album that would keep him (and Johnny Gill) from having to be mad at The Weeknd. He proves it on songs like "DanceBill" and "One Day." The choruses from both songs will be stuck in your head for the foreseeable future.

Navigating through 4NML HSPTL can be challenging upon your first visit. And while it may not make you feel any more comfortable, repeated trips through its halls are endlessly rewarding, even if only on a surface level. Mike Eagle is like a walking, rapping MC Wikipedia, in that every song contains a reference to something that makes you wanna hit up google or youtube. Pop culture shout outs. Dance songs about that vague feeling of disconnection. Half chicken/half brontosaurus bears. They're all somewhere to be found in the 4NML HSPTL. Check in.

For more info, check out: www.mikeeagle.net     



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