I was introduced to Open Mike Eagle through his incredible performance with Thundercat on Why? with Hannibal Burress. His A Special Episode EP entered steady rotation and digging back through his discography showed me an artist who had a unique style about him. So when I heard about Cavanaugh, his collaboration with Serengeti I was pretty excited to listen to it. Time and Materials is a concept album about a high-rise building that contains both luxury condos and section 7 housing and keeps the different groups of residents split by using separate entrances. The story is told through the characters of maintenance men Mike and Dave and gives Open Mike Eagle and Serengeti exaggerated versions of themselves to play off of as they spit grim lyrics about the life of blue collar artists.
The production, handled entirely by Open Mike Eagle (his first time to produce an entire project) has a dark electronic vibe to it. Opening track “Zorak” has an almost industrial quality as Dave and Mike trade verses on top of it. Lead single “Screen Play” has our two characters discussing their lives outside of work, how they wish they would be able to leave it behind but they can’t. It feels like these two characters are talking to each other because they know that no one else is going to understand them. It’s a lonely song but one that’s handled with such care that it ends up being the best possible introduction to the people we’ll be spending the rest of the album with
There’s a line that haunts the final track that I can’t get away from. “Lemons” opens with a chant of “Keep the us with the uses/The yous with the yous.” In this world that Open Mike Eagle and Serengeti have created there’s a tension between the two groups that make up the Cavanaugh development and these two, Mike and Dave, are the only ones who get to see both sides. There’s both an isolating feeling of knowing that they are the only ones who can get the whole story (this probably plays into the melancholy that looms over the whole album) and a responsibility to tell that story even if it gets to be too much. The characters of Mike and Dave seem to need each other because no one else wants to listen.
Open Mike Eagle and Serengeti have made something special with Cavanaugh. The two emcees work in a near-perfect sync to make something much bigger then either has done alone and I can’t wait to hear what story they decide to tell next.