The 10 Best Moments From Open Mike Eagle's Secret Skin Podcast

In addition to his hip-hop skills, Open Mike Eagle is a gifted conversationalist who gets into some deep territory during interviews with fellow artists as part of his Secret Skin podcast for the Infinite Guest network.

This Friday, the rapper who is about to join Doomtree on the road will tape a new podcast episode live at the UBS Forum in St. Paul, featuring Carnage and Aby Wolf alongside Chicago rapper Psalm One. Judging by the thought-provoking material that has come before, this should be a great discussion. Here are our ten favorite moments from the 12 episodes of Secret Skin released so far.

See also:
Open Mike Eagle on the hip-hop and podcast sides of his brain

10. "There's something about it a lot of people don't really appreciate, probably because of the racial dynamic, is there's such a dadaist nature to rap, that it's able to incorporate and absorb anything into it and make it subject to it's own rules. I don't know any other music that does that." - Busdriver, from Episode 12

Busdriver says rap is one of the best art forms America has produced thanks to its inherent dadaism, and goes on to frame his own output with his appreciation for the genre's unique essence. Busdriver himself is perhaps the best example of this, and he gets into some of the inside mechanics of his own avant-garde material in a fairly detailed and engaging way with Mike steering the conversation.

9. "In our house, rebelling is something you have to work really hard to do." - P.O.S., in Episode 9.

Mike's introduction about Ferguson protests and the Los Angeles social landscape following the 1992 riots makes this a worthwhile listen. This episode also serves as a great primer for those not already aware of the Doomtree narrative and the origins of P.O.S.' illustrious rap career. He digs into the very beginnings, talking about his first rap song involving battle raps about cornbread using drumsticks, a football helmet, and a four-track recorder. P.O.S. parallels his own parenting philosophy with that of his mother, who gave the rapper the freedom to make the mistakes and self-discoveries that led to his storied career. He highlights his own loose approach and that being a rebellious teenager in his house is actually difficult to pull off.

8. "In time of great abundance, why is everything still meaningless and absurd? Why are we still dealing with problems my grandfather had, but I have an iPhone 5 iS?" - Milo, in Episode 8.

Milo lays out one of the core themes of his first full-length LP, A Toothpaste Suburb, by describing the absurdity of modern life and a society that is advanced in so many ways but remains as racist as ever. He meanders to related problems in rap criticism and label dynamics and how his place as a black rapper working outside biased understandings of what that means can cause rifts in his his work's reception.

7. "Something happened to the style of music made in this time that I really can't think has happened to any other genre that I'm aware of at all: At some point in the early '90s, it became illegal to make this style of music." - Open Mike Eagle, in Episode 3.

Open Mike Eagle talks about the death of underground hip-hop with Blockhead, whose beats for Aesop Rock helped define the sound of the genre. Before the interview, he lays out the two things that killed it: downloading and the legal crackdown on sampling. Adding context with the famous Biz Markie lawsuit that hindered the creation of records in the vein of Paul's Boutique to 3 Ft High And Rising, Open Mike Eagle laments the end of the era and places his own independent career in the midst of that tumultuous change.

6. "I'd seen a lot of one-man shows about racism, and they'd always set racism in the past... I'm like, racism's right now! Also the thing about racism shows is they would always show really stark, violent types of racism... It's not always like that, it's subtle." - W. Kamau Bell, in Episode 11.

Comedian W. Kamau Bell's details the beginnings of his short-lived FX series Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell as a live theater performance that played like a Daily Show about the ins and outs of day-to-day racism. Bell makes a distinction between the obviously terrible examples of racist violence and the less visible sorts of micro-agressions he deals with regularly, and how he finds comedy in digging into the latter. 
5. "Men seem to take your freakin' act literally. They cannot seem to separate performance from person." - Janelle James, in Episode 2.

Comedian Janelle James explains the differences she's experienced between male and female audience members, and that while her on-stage hecklers tend to be female, men will more likely approach her after the show and confuse her stage persona with her true self. She talks about how she performs her act differently based on the kinds of responses she'd get from people who can't grasp that she is not her act, a concern present in rap that again bridges the art forms.

4. "Music is easier in a way... You play a song, and even if people aren't really listening, at the end of it, they'll clap. You get the response. At the end of a joke, if it's not funny, there's no courtesy laughing." - Myq Kaplan, in Episode 5.

Open Mike Eagle has explored the bridges between music and comedy in both his podcast conversations and his own music (especially on his latest record, the excellent Dark Comedy), and in his conversation with musical comedian Myq Kaplan, he gets to some of the core concepts that bring connect and divide the two art forms. They talk about concerns like the difference between live and recordings, eloquence versus virtuosity for it's own sake, and  critical interactions with the work.

3. "The idea of working with a band, having all these different people doing stuff, it seems to me like it would be so impossible to have a finished idea that everyone would be happy with." - Open Mike Eagle, in Episode 7.

Yoni Wolf talked about his work with his band, comparing it to being a manager or a "benevolent dictator." Open Mike Eagle talks about how he finds it hard to even work with producers sometimes because of the difficulty of expressing why an idea is the right thing to do in the process of song creation. Yoni talks specifically about his frequent collaborations with local legend Andrew Broder and how their creative relationship pushed his solo efforts forward, but that often times the work he created with his band Why? was led as an extension of his own personal songwriting. 

2. "I've learned the rule that most rappers are intellectuals. We fuckin' use our words to explain the world." - Nocando, in Episode 1.

Nocando talks to Open Mike Eagle about a number of topics, from anecdotes about their Hellfyre Club tour to near-death experiences, reflecting the nature of a shared conversation between friends. He touches on how he doesn't trust intellectuals, defining the type of person he's referring to as someone who utilizes flowery language to hide lies. But he makes sure to note that rappers as a whole are intellectual by the dictionary definition, framing the craft as an intellectual pursuit that hinges on language and writing.

1. "He eviscerates. It's one of the most messed-up diss tracks. It was a masterpiece of brutality." - Blockhead, in Episode 4

In the second part of their interview, Blockhead chronicles one of the most infamous indie rap beefs -- between El-P of Def Jux  and Sole of Anticon. In response to Sole's "Dear El-Pee," the Company Flow record "Linda Tripp" saw El-P mercilessly tearing into Sole over the course of a seven-minute diss that incorporated recordings of a phone conversation between the two. Blockhead describes his own relationships with the two feuding labels socially and as a contributor, and it's a compelling detailing of the underground record label insider baseball worth checking out to understand the bygone era.

Open Mike Eagle brings the Secret Skin podcast to UBS Forum Friday, January 30 at 7:30 pm with a live taping featuring Carnage, Aby Wolf, and Psalm One. Comedy from Brandi Brown, music from Medium Zach. $15.


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