Open Mike Eagle Credit: Roger Ho

Atop a low-groaning guitar that lumbers through “My Auntie’s Building,” Hyde Park native Open Mike Eagle raps, “They blew up my auntie’s building / Put out her great-grandchildren / Who else in America deserves to have that feeling? / Where else in America will they blow up that village?” He’s specifically referring to the Robert Taylor Homes, the 28 public housing high-rises that were demolished over nine years starting in 1998. On his new album, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream (Mello Music Group), Eagle, who grew up visiting his aunt and her children there, reenvisions the legacy of that two-mile stretch of CHA buildings, which outsiders have remembered as incubators of crime. If anyone’s up for the task it’s Eagle; he has an exceptional gift for balancing unvarnished descriptions of black life under the oppressive forces of systemic racism and economic inequality with a personable sense of humor (earlier this year Comedy Central picked up a variety series Eagle and comedian Baron Vaughn created called The New Negroes. These days Eagle calls LA home, but on Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, he’s a Chicagoan through and through. The aforementioned “My Auntie’s Building” is great because he’s able to shine a light on the blight of the Robert Taylor Homes as much as the beating hearts of the people who filled its apartments. Over the course of the album, he reveals what made the complex unique as a community, while demonstrating how the city failed the citizens who lived there. Eagle fights for the displaced and against the forces that drove them out. In the process he gives the unheard a voice, such as on the succinct hook of “Brick Body Complex,” where he artfully blends the perspecticve of resident and building into one “I promise you I will never fit in your descriptions / I’m giant, don’t let nobody tell you nothing different.”   v

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