Album Review: Open Mike Eagle – Component System With The Auto Reverse

Featuring collabs from the likes of Madlib and Aesop Rock, the rapper and comedian's eighth album is an homage to his teenage mixtapes.

“It’s October, and I’m tired”, penned Open Mike Eagle in October 2019 under instruction from his therapist to write down his feelings. A year later the line found its way onto ‘Everything Ends Last Year’, the midpoint of Anime, Trauma and Divorce, which summed up the direct inspection on feelings of heartache, burnout, frustration and comics. Yet another October later, Eagle has released its follow-up, Component System With The Auto Reverse.

Open Mike Eagle - I'll Fight You produced by Diamond D (official video)

Overall, the mood feels lifted on this new release, with singles ‘Multi-Game Arcade Cabinet’ and ‘I’ll Fight You’ flitting from playful jazzy electronica to crisp old-skool. In fact, the record’s esoteric title refers to one of many mixtapes Eagle burned from college radio stations as a teenager growing up in Chicago, and the spirit and of hip hop influences from his lifetime are present throughout.

High school pal Still RIFT is a recurring figure and reminder of Eagle’s own rap beginnings, while on ‘For DOOM’ he commemorates the life of late rapper MF DOOM and his relationship with him: “Got two songs with you, but only spoke to a go-between/ Was still proud as f*ck to reach ground zero/Cause who the f*ck ever gets to rock with they heroes?” Famous DOOM collaborator Madlib adds his own progressive touch on ‘Circuit City’, a half-time psychedelic roller.

On the typically wry ’79th And Stony Island’, Eagle expresses a kind of disappointment after watching Kanye’s documentary, before reflecting on his own position within current culture: “I stay woke, I don’t sleep great/ I’m in a weird place creatively […] I still got the same worldview/ A brain full of old-school rules/ And memories, like flesh wounds.”

Just like the many layers of the mixtapes Eagle curated while his creative mind was still forming, Component System With The Auto Reverse is a multifaceted work that requires several plays, if not to fully grasp the several sides, styles and tones of Eagle’s takes on identity, then as way to just enjoy some of the rapper’s finest ever wordplay.

Read our interview with Open Mike Eagle here.