What Happens When I try to Relax, a six-song project from Open Mike Eagle, is now available on streaming services. The Los Angeles rapper, who is originally from Chicago, released the project on his own record label AutoReverse.

According to the artist’s Twitter account, it is the first time that the rapper has independently released his own music.

The project — the rapper says not to call it an EP — follows his 2017 critically acclaimed LP Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, a concept record about the demolition of the Robert Taylor housing complex in Chicago. According to an NPR article, the rapper spent much of his youth there visiting his aunt and cousins.

While the subject matter on Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, is heavy, its retro boom-bap and breezy funk backdrop often keep the vibes light and nostalgic.The sounds on What Happens When I Try to Relax , on the other hand, are darker and more atmospheric. The song “Microfiche” is a haze of cloudy guitars and bass tones, and digital horns creep behind “Single Ghosts,” with a beat as eerie as the title implies. “Relatable (peak OME)” has the rapper experimenting with some energetic new flows over thumping kick drums and dreamy synths, the fog letting up for a nice trumpet solo that breaches halfway through the song.

While the rapper does address broader societal issues on the EP, for every political condemnation, there is an intimate — and often humorous — revelation about what it’s like to to be a successful independent rapper in America right now. On “Southside Eagle (93 Bulls),” his raps are both intimate and humorous, and lie somewhere between a humble statement and a humblebrag: “I saw Kendrick at Leimert didn’t say shit / I saw Vince at the club and didn’t say shit / Cause this independent hustle is adjacent.”

Check it out on the AutoReverse record label’s Bandcamp page and at whatever streaming service you’re into. If you’d like to hear some of these tunes live, I’m sure he’ll play a couple when he comes to Oakland next month. Check out the show details below.

Open Mike Eagle
Starline Social Club
November 8, 2018
9pm, $15