Up-top, you should listen to “Hymnal” right now because it contains a verse of the year contender from Sammus, who manages to keep up the same double rhyme through her entire verse while pulling in eclectic references to Star Wars (“I’d rather be hiding alone like some Ewoks, up in treetops) to hip-hop (“But don’t wait like Dre did with Detox”) while showing off her nerdier/hipster side (“Tryna pen classics like Reeboks / Or Greek thoughts or Fleet Fox”) and squeezing in the occasional gutwrencher (“Take a nap, lie awake in-between sobs / Then I rap and I pray and the grief stops / My ego take cheap shots / Can’t believe how she talk to me / She talks like it’s neat pushing buttons like [i]key fobs…”). It’s one of those verses that would alone justify the existence of this album even if the rest weren’t up to snuff.
Of course, Open Mike Eagle is one of the few artists that seems to improve with every release, and just when you thought he couldn’t get better than a full collaboration with Paul White on yesteryear’s Hella Personal Film Festival, he does just that. It helps that the various producers manage to make unique beats that still fit in with the album’s general aesthetic: Andrew Broder sampling what sounds like a Tim Hecker track from Virgins on “Hymnal”; Exile’s jazzy guitar on “Legendary Iron Hood” or the catchy riff that powers “Happy Wasteland Day”; Illingsworth’s memorable drum programming on “Daydreaming in the Projects”; Lo-Phi’s Flying Lotus-like beat on “Breezeway Ritual.” And Open Mike Eagle remains himself, trying to keep it all together (“I got a keep a façade, I got a play it cool / Like when you with a girl and she go away to school”; “I ain’t cried since ’94 or something”) even in the face of leaders he doesn’t respect (“When the king is a garbage person / I might wanna lay down and die”) and rampant misogyny (“If there was justice all men would have to die, patricide / Tweet at the void and heart the at replies”). The façade breaks down on closer “My Auntie’s Building” with his most visceral and straight-forward rapping ever as he watches the projects get torn down and replaced with nothing (“Blew up my auntie’s building / Put out her great grandchildren / That building cost 10 million / Now an empty lot not filled in”), closing the record with a growing beat that’s “the sound of them tearing my body down.”