Open Mike Eagle is capturing the stories of hip-hop legends

Though rather a lot of hip-hop artists are technically extra verbose than Shakespeare, that doesn’t imply they at all times get the likelihood to inform their stories.

As legends like MF DOOM, DMX, and Shock G die prematurely, they depart behind a grim reminder that followers usually don’t know what rap’s elder statesmen—and ladies—are going via now, or what knowledge and context lurks behind the cobwebbed corners of their pasts.

Open Mike Eagle is doing his half to flip the script, nonetheless, by bringing each hip-hop historical past and future legends to the podcast house along with his Stony Island Audio community.

Anime, Trauma and Divorce by Open Mike Eagle

“Music movies and PR are typical methods to present followers entry to your persona as an artist, however I believe podcasting is a extremely smart way to do this, too,” the rapper, comic, and now podcast magnate says. “It’s the way you join with individuals and resonate with them in ways in which sort of exist outdoors the music—particularly for artists in the indie world, the place I come from, who can’t at all times afford the finest PR or the finest movies.”

Although he’s an inveterate collaborator, Open Mike Eagle has at all times had a DIY method. He got here up in the mid-aughts Chicago rap scene earlier than migrating to Los Angles and becoming a member of the underground collective Mission Blowed. Since then, he’s created six solo albums and several other EPs of darkly funny, hella personal, syllabically inconceivable art rap, and based his personal label, Auto Reverse Records. Alongside the means, he struck up friendships with many comedians past school roommate Hannibal Buress, culminating in the touring present and Comedy Central sequence The New Negroes, with Baron Vaughn. However like many others in the period of the multi-hyphenate hustle, he additionally made time to pursue a sideline in podcasting.

With Secret Skin, the present he launched in 2014, Eagle discovered an unfiltered outlet for tour stories, business venting, private struggles, and explorations of creativity with fellow indie rappers like Aesop Rock and Dessa, together with comedians akin to Hari Kondabolu and Marc Maron. Though he put Secret Pores and skin on hiatus two years into its run, the present finally foreshadowed Stony Island Audio, the hip-hop podcast community he curated in 2020, throughout the rollout of his newest album, Anime, Trauma and Divorce.

Stemming from Eagle’s earlier collaborations with Starburns Audio, and its since-decamped cofounder Dan Harmon, Stony Island is a burgeoning galaxy of hip-hop-centric podcasts. Exhibits like Can’t Knock the Shuffle, Dad Bod Rap Pod, and Father Hoods characteristic everybody from Pharoahe Monch to Fats Tony popping off about their music and the stories behind it, whereas Super Duty Tough Work gives inventive self-help and jokes from indie vet Blueprint.

The jewel in the community’s crown, nonetheless, is Eagle’s personal podcast, What Had Happened Was, the place every season consists of a one-on-one deep-dive via the whole profession of a closely influential hip-hop luminary. (First up was foundational producer Prince Paul, adopted by the present season with Run the Jewels powerhouse El-P.) Quick of writing a e-book, there is maybe no higher venue for a rap legend to spill their guts than What Had Occurred Was—and the book-writing course of tends to not have Open Mike Eagle prompting pointed discussions at each flip.

Hip-hop podcasts have gotten undeniably extra common lately, with Rap Radar and The Joe Budden Podcast commanding broad listener bases, however Stony Hill Audio’s power is the selection of subgenres it spans, and its emphasis on the sorts of stories that fall between the cracks.

“I believe not rather a lot of individuals take rap actually significantly, apart from artists on the highest ranges,” Eagle says. “So, rather a lot of what’s on the market in podcasts is sort of primarily based on how many individuals a producer thinks will click on on it. They’re not essentially scouring the web, in search of the finest stories to inform; it’s extra of a clickbait economic system, sadly. So, rather a lot of rappers are having to take that step themselves, and that’s half of why my platform exists. I wish to assist that alongside the place I can.”

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What Had Occurred Was with El-P and Open Mike Eagle

After all, Eagle doesn’t simply need his fellow hip-hop artists to have the ability to inform their stories. He additionally desires the subsequent era of artists to be armed with information about the business they’re coming into, to allow them to take management of their very own narratives as they’re growing.

Like most music genres, hip-hop has historically been obsessive about youth and doesn’t have a tendency to supply many paths to longevity past “simply be Jay-Z.” That’s how somebody like the recently deceased Black Rob might have a platinum debut album in the 12 months 2000 and wish a GoFundMe simply to get by in 2021.

Aspiring artists might not have the energy to alter the system, however they will not less than be ready for what lies in retailer for them.

[Late great comedian] Patrice O’Neal mentioned it’s such as you get picked and also you get to go on this trip, and there’s rather a lot of anticipation and pleasure, however when it’s over, rather a lot of occasions it’s simply over and then you definately attempt to get on the trip once more,” Eagle says. “And in rap music, rather a lot of occasions, after individuals get that preliminary shot, they don’t get many extra, and I simply don’t assume we actually know sufficient about how going via this curler coaster impacts individuals. I get frightened about how we chase this factor and we don’t know what it prices us.”

Stony Island Audio listeners will come to know greater than most.

Luckily, the community’s bitter truth-pills about the business are embedded inside the peanut butter of usually joyful, humorous podcasts celebrating he artform. And extra exhibits are on the means.

As the roster expands, Eagle is growing a podcast about rap-related motion pictures and constructing a present round “a really entertaining and fascinating rap persona” he can’t but disclose. He’s additionally taking pitches all the time.

“There are rather a lot of methods to dig into hip-hop,” he says, “and we’re taking a look at all of them.”