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Review Sat Oct 25 2014

Open Mike Eagle and Serengeti Elevated Rap at Empty Bottle

openmikeeagle2.jpgThere are many names for alternative rap, the spectrum of hip hop that looks deeper into the craft of the verses and beats. Open Mike Eagle calls his version of the genre Art Rap and I couldn't imagine a better way to describe it. Eagle, along with Serengeti and Jeremiah Jae, create wordy and ultimately more fulfilling tracks, putting emphasis on characters and message while still putting up memorable tracks. Eagle's Dark Comedy and Serengeti's Sisyphus project and his forthcoming Kenny Dennis III are easily shaping up to be the best alternative rap albums of the year. This past week, the three rappers stopped by Empty Bottle and put on a solid rap show.

Jeremiah Jae started the night off with his pretty amazing set. It seemed that not many of those in attendance were too aware of him (if I'm being honest I know him more for his production that his rapping), which is a shame. Jae's raps were consistently tight, even when he drifted into freestyle hype mode, getting the crowd ready for the upcoming rappers. "Thrashers" was one of the stand out tracks in his performance with a beat that rivals the best the alternative rap scene offers. His set was relatively short, but certain showcased Jae well.

Serengeti typically starts of his sets in an incredibly demure fashion. I have seen him a few times this year and he is always putting the spotlight away from himself and primes the audience for the rest of the artist performing that night. Even with the shifted focus, Serengeti's interesting laidback conversational flow always comes through and delivers. He began his set with "Firebird Logo", a track made for local label Baro Records before delving into a nice mix of songs spanning his albums. He played the song's beats of a white iPod Classic plugged into the sound system. Serengeti topics run a vast range, from the trials and tribulations of fictional UFC fighter in the "The Whip" to imagining new lives for himself in "Geti Life".

serengeti2.jpgToward the end of his set Serengeti let loose in the form of Kenny Dennis, the uber fan of Brian Dennehy and the Bears. With Kenny Dennis III set to come out next month, Serengeti went full Kenny Dennis on the crowd, busting out break dance moves the only way KDz could. "Shazam" Kenny Dennis' diss track against Shaq had Serengeti jumping around the stage to rile up the atmosphere. His demeanor completely shifts as Kenny Dennis, fully embodying the nuanced character and his thick Chicago accent. All that was missing was the mustache that would make Ron Swanson quiver. Everyone in the Empty Bottle loudly shouted the accolades for Bears, Hawks, Sox, Bulls during the chorus of crowd favorite" Dennehy", a track worthy of being a Chicago anthem. However, Kenny Dennis was not long for this world as Serengeti returned with "Rhythm of Devotion", a highlight off his Sisyphus project with Sufjan Stevens and Son Lux. He asked a few crowd members up on stage to dance along with him before exiting the stage.

ome.jpgThe long table on stage was adjusted to suit Open Mike Eagle's setup, which included a collection of figurines and a crown facing out to the crowd. Amongst the small figures were Jake and Ice King of Adventure Time, a purple light up ball, and a few other items just shy of my periphery. They would sit in their spots for the duration of the set, with Eagle always striking a reverence toward the artifacts. Before he began, he picked up them up and performed a small ritual, moving them in the air as if presenting them out to the world. He then lifted up the crown off the table and reached out the people closest to the stage, passing the reverence on to them by asking to lay their hand on the crown. It was an amazing presentation that set the atmosphere to his liking, heralding the importance of what was about to go on with his performance.

openmikeeagle.jpgOpen Mike Eagle started off his set primarily picking tracks from his aptly named release, Dark Comedy. His verses, much like the flow that delivers them, are impeccable. Eagle has a way of infusing a strange humor into his verses without ever fully succumbing to it. It's not uncommon to listen to verbose rappers who drop in tons of strange references in to their songs, but Eagle manages to make these allusions incredibly clever and obscure. He can drop notes to Seinfeld, the Ron and Fez show, House of Cards, Led Zeppelin in a single song, in this case "Doug Stamper (Advice Raps)". One can't help but grin widely as somehow crams in David Lynch's criticism of watching things on cellphones, Alan Moore, and Lil Lord Fauntleroy on "Golden Age Raps".

ome3.jpgOpen Mike Eagle kept the crowd moving throutou the night, as the latter half of his set drifted over to older songs. Hands were raised in unabashed agreement during "The Processional (The Funeral March)" The enthusiastic reaction for "Degrassi Picture Day", one of his funniest and downright fun songs prompted Open Mike Eagle to shout to the crowd "Whoever you are, you are my spirit animal!" Eagle has a way with everyone in the audience, from the people he knows personally to the random fan gushing at his skill. Open Mike Eagle filled a fan request for "A History of Modern Dance" a wonderful deconstruction meeting someone in this day and age, taking the Empty Bottle on one last trip through his nuanced verses.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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