How Open Mike Eagle Survived His Demons Through Anime
Life changes hit the rapper hard — and shows like ‘Tokyo Ghoul’ helped him process it all
Since the ’90s, with Toonami curating anime for TV audiences and classics like Fist of the North Star circulating on VHS, Black America has been enamored with the Japanese medium. Just as martial arts films had in the decades before, anime turned its back on the redemptive narratives American media usually peddled, captivating viewers with stories of courage and willpower in the face of existential threat and internal conflict. It was hard not to find parallels; RZA once famously declared that, “Dragon Ball Z represents the journey of the Black man in America.”
By now, two generations have been raised on the medium; their work, perspectives, interests, and character have all been shaped by the animated art form. Open Mike Eagle is a prime example. The 40-year-old Los Angeles-based rapper, comedian, and podcaster accessed a new level of vulnerability on his 2020 album, Anime, Trauma and Divorce — thanks in large part to the anime he was consuming throughout his personal trials and recording process.
Seeing characters having to deal with and push through extreme loss — when I’m writing out my feelings about what I’m going through, I’m touching on some of these themes because those are the ways in which I was helping myself to push forward.
The most intimate of his five full-length releases, the album focuses on a tumultuous two-year period where OME navigated a difficult divorce and professional failings that rearranged his priorities as an artist and a person. True to its title, it’s also packed with references to animated series like Neon Genesis Evangelion and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. LEVEL caught up with him to discuss his personal connection to the art form.
LEVEL: Anime, Trauma and Divorce dropped back in October, and it seems to focus on rebuilding after major personal shifts. When did…