A stand-out in Los Angeles hip-hop collective Project Blowed for almost a decade, Open Mike Eagle has spent the past nine years rapping and grinding hard. It's paying off an he's become the “it” indie-rapper of 2013.
Last week he was the featured guest on Marc Maron's WTF Podcast, which is a pretty big deal, as its listenership is huge and Maron doesn't have many rappers. He also released his new EP Sir Rockabye — available on a floppy disc CD. no less. (More on that below.) He's also toured with Aesop Rock and Doomtree's Dessa, and has been shouted-out by They Might Be Giants. We spoke with Mike about how all of this is coming together for him.
How did you wind up on WTF with Marc Maron?
I did a song with Busdriver called “Werner Herzog” that I shouted [Maron] out in, and enough people tweeted him about it that he finally listened to it and he dug it. After he shouted the song out, some time passed and I emailed him after I heard he had [professional wrestler] Colt Cabana on the show. When he was doing the intro he was explaining how he found parallels between what he does and independent wrestling and, by that logic, I felt I could explain to him this independent rap thing that we're doing and he was open to it.
In the interview you mentioned losing a rap battle to comedian Hannibal Buress in college at Southern Illinois University. Do you recall what you said to each other?
We were having a battle out by the dorms and he just got me. He freestyled part of it, but he prepared some stuff to lean on and he got me good. I remember talking about how he was pigeon-toed but that made me laugh more than it made the crowd laugh. But I was his R.A. at the time, and he took this populist angle and made me look like “the man,” how I should be out somewhere writing somebody up on some narc type shit.
After so many years grinding, the past 12 months have seen your profile considerably raised in the indie rap world. Why do you think it's right now that people are finally taking notice?
I come from the Project Blowed tradition, which is very DIY and a lot of times means doing stuff too early, which is why I went on my first tour in 2009, before I had an album out. The connections I still use to this day came from that first tour. I became ingrained in that indie-rap network and it's beneficial for people to see you in a lot of places. I'll see some of the same artists at SXSW that I'll see at Paid Dues and they'll make the connection that you're serious, so they'll reach out for opportunities. I also was fortunate to do a song with Danny Brown last year right before he really took off, so that opened me up. I've also had a certain forthrightness reaching out over the internet.
When we last spoke Harvard and Stone had pulled your performance. After the hubbub, was there any follow-up on their end?
There was a little uproar for a week or so with people vocally upset and offended over what [Harvard and Stone] did. Some people got caught up on “racism” and tried to defend Harvard and Stone as not racist based on this or that, but my whole point was that even if it were just genres, they were making a whole lot more out of the genre I do than actually listening to what I represented or having any respect for me as an artist. I had heard that they wanted to apologize to me from the guy who promoted the show, but they never reached out to me so as far as I'm concerned nothing came from it other than a week's worth of outrage.
Your new free EP Sir Rockabye is also available on a limited edition “Floppy Disc CD.” What is that?
It's a CD inside of an old school floppy disc. It fits really good and looks really awesome. It's an idea that [rapper] Nocando brought to the label and I was one of the guys who really ran with it because I saw the response it gets on the road when people see this big ass disc on the table and they pick it up and ask about it. It's a specific kind of nerdery I'm really down with. That disc was a very specific part of my life and other people's lives, playing Oregon Trail on the old computers. I like anything from that period of time, at least the parts that haven't been commodified yet.