"Two thousand eleven was kind of like, you know, indie rap's first big year," Los Angeles rapper Open Mike Eagle told Up on the Sun in April. "The things that were seen more as interesting — especially in terms of coverage of rap music — were, like, acts that are very nontraditional. You got Danny Brown, Shabazz Palaces. There's a lot of attention given to those acts, plus Odd Future, Death Grips, etc." He's right, but if 2011 was the year non-traditional rap stepped up, 2012 is the year it stepped out, getting funkier (Oddisee's People Hear What They See); more demented (Isaiah Toothtaker and Max B's Hood Internet-produced Toothy Wavy), and nihilistically claustrophobic (El-P's Cure 4 Cancer). All the aforementioned descriptions work in describing Eagle's new record, the powerful and varied 4NML HSPTL. Featuring guests such as Serengeti, Nonrandom, and Danny Brown, Eagle sings snippets of Blink-182, dissects the financial crisis over vintage soul-jazz, and dips into softly sung avant-electronica with the self-lacerating and poignant "HSPTL." In other words, it boldly pushes boundaries in a year when everyone is trying to push boundaries. "I don't know if you want to call it 'alternative' yet, but there's definitely momentum happening in that arena," Eagle says, discussing the market's reaction to adventours hip-hop. "But weirdly enough, there's still an industry barrier, in a sense; so it's not quite a youth meritocracy yet, but I think it's getting there. It definitely gives me more hope to continue doing my own thing."
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