Rapper Open Mike Eagle plays Norman Music Festival 

click to enlarge From left rapper Open Mike Eagle poses for a photo with producer Paul White. - OWEN RICHARDS / PROVIDED
  • Owen Richards / Provided
  • From left rapper Open Mike Eagle poses for a photo with producer Paul White.

As the weight of stacking allegations began to crush comedian Bill Cosby’s pristine legacy, rapper Open Mike Eagle watched from a unique perspective.

Comedian Hannibal Buress helped propel Cosby’s career into its darkest days. At a 2014 set in Philadelphia, one joke he told about existing rape accusations against Cosby was captured on video and uploaded to the Internet. It quickly went viral. Eagle was Buress’ resident adviser at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where the two became good friends.

Buress has seen his public profile spike since “the joke.” A role on Comedy Central’s Broad City helps, too. Still, Eagle doesn’t like it when people credit the comedian’s success to one chance moment.

“When I think of that and how long I’ve known him, it has a lot to do with his energy,” Eagle said. “He puts a lot of work into what he does. It wasn’t just one joke that got him here.”

Some parallels can be drawn between the careers of the native Chicago rapper and Buress. Eagle’s big, viral moment still hasn’t come, but he has kept a steady work ethic. He put out six albums in seven years, not including EPs or records he released with groups Thirty Fish or Swim Team.

Eagle performs 7:15 p.m. Saturday on Norman Music Festival’s main stage.

Before Buress could write his Cosby joke, there had to be a certain level of research or awareness involved. Similarly, Eagle is known for a deliberately thoughtful brand of hip-hop that is often loaded with meaning or in some way intimate. His newest album, Hella Personal Film Festival, is a collaboration with British producer Paul White and was released March 25.

Eagle’s style is unorthodox even in the self-aware rap realm. His lyrics closely resemble poetry read from a cool, young literary professor.

Many rappers and songwriters can describe exactly how they sit down and come up with material. Eagle said his approach to writing is always whichever way is convenient at the time.

“It differs a lot from song to song,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t form it until I hear the beat. I don’t have a standard approach I take every time.”

There’s a notion that everyone wants to be or is a rapper.

“That’s something that’s always been true,” he said. “With all the equipment, it’s something you can practice on your own. There are no barriers for entry.”

Eagle said while there aren’t necessarily more rappers now than there have been, there are many more ways for rappers to become known.

The emcee first met frequent collaborator Milo through Myspace. (Milo performs 11 p.m. Friday at Norman Music Fest.) Eagle was once a faceless Internet rapper like thousands of others that populate sites like Bandcamp.

He advises artists to keep working as if everybody is paying attention. Stop focusing on hit songs and viral moments. Show people you’re interested in producing art.

“A song is great, but it won’t be enough to open any doors,” he said.

Print headline: Open records, Chicago-born rapper Open Mike Eagle brings a healthy work appetite to Norman Music Festival.

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