Open Mike Eagle & Serengeti @ The Empty Botle
This double billing must feel like a very big deal to a very small segment of the population. The monsters of indie-emo rap. The Travelling Wilburys of rappers with existential malaise. Two rappers with differing but complementary personalities, linked by the fact that neither seems particularly interested in rhymes about drug dealing or self-aggrandizement.
Up first, Serengeti put on a set that spanned his prolific and eccentric career, branching into the synthed-out sad-man beats of Family & Friends, the more blustery backpack rap of the Kenny Dennis LP and even the electro-dance friendly work of his Sufjan Stevens-paired side project Sisyphus. Serengeti is at his best when thoughtful and nostalgic, the Raging Bull-esque “The Whip” in particular spurring chills in its retelling of the redemption of a UFC fighter.
Where Serengeti sounds at his best while contemplative and conversational, Open Mike Eagle’s voice is most effective while cynical and engaged. The self-deprecation and Millenial vulnerability of this year’s excellent Dark Comedy were only heightened by his energetic live set, Mike ably rapping and engaging the crowd while chopping and splicing his beats on a personal MPC. The message taps into a universal social-network-induced dread, a realization I came to while watching the middle aged woman next to me nodding approvingly during “Very Much Money (Ice King Dream)”. It’s the siren call of a generation of young adults compensated through unpaid internships and exposure. And it hits you hard live. —TM