Los Angeles-based, Chicago-raised emcee Open Mike Eagle has a new television show, “The New Negros” — based on his 3-year-old stage show — coming to Comedy Central (along with co-host Baron Vaughn). He’s been a guest on virtually every show in the podcast universe, and dropped a new EP, the appropriately-titled “What I Do When I Relax,” last fall. Now on the road in support of the new record, does he get time to relax and focus on just being an emcee?
“Nope, ’cause I have to answer 10,000 emails each day, or else nothing moves,” he says — not with a sense of resignation or annoyance, but almost with the pride of someone whose talent is so in-demand.
amNewYork caught up with the always-moving Eagle on the first day of his current tour, which comes to Rough Trade NYC on April 4.
There aren’t a lot of indie rappers who work the comedy podcast and performance spaces. When you first started working with comics, why did that appeal to you?
I think it starts with who I am and what resonates with me. I think that a lot of the way I go about making rap songs is really akin to the way that a lot of stand-up comics and comedy writers observe the world around them. I start from this place where comedy already appeals to me and I have work that kind of works in that world too. In L.A., around 2010, I started putting energy into performing on whatever comedy shows were open to that. If I’m around that audience, because they’re tuned into comedy, tuned in to delivery, to timing, they would respond to things in my rhymes that I wasn’t even used to people responding to, because people at rap shows tend to listen a little differently.
On “Southside Eagle (93 Bulls),” you say, “I probably need to start another podcast.” Can you envision a time during which you’re doing enough?
When you say is there an enough in terms of what I’m doing, I guess it largely depends on how you measure that. I think that where I am, the amount of money I’m making, goes very much hand-in-hand with what I’m working on and how many things I’m working on. But by the same token, even if the money is greatly increased, it’s not like I’m going to be satisfied by any level of creation either. It’s weird. Monetarily, you’re always motivated to do more, but psychologically, you do have to set some goals or else you’ll be spinning your wheels.
Podcasts, television shows, albums — in between it all, how do you find peace?
In my situation, I started very, very DIY. Now I’m engaged in the industry in a few ways, and because of that, because the journey has been so incremental and slow, I’m really able to notice when I’ve achieved things that I used to want very badly. It’s easier for me, at the pace my career goes, to not take things for granted, and really appreciate them as they unfold.
So, the peace comes from the hustle then.
Yeah, and being able to take a moment to say, “OK, that was cool, I just did this thing I was meaning to do.” I have that other line on that song, “I’ve been on every podcast that I listen to,” and that’s a weird thing to say, but I do find I’ve been able to be a part of most things that I’m a fan of, just by putting energy in it and growing my notoriety in a way that makes sense for the people who I enjoy to want to deal with me too.
Open Mike Eagle performs 9 p.m. Wednesday at Rough Trade, 64 N. Ninth St., Williamsburg roughtradenyc.com, $15