By 2016, Open Mike Eagle was considered a "slept-on" rapper, one with twice the skills as press coverage and one who mixed all the best bits of Devin the Dude, Q-Tip, Mos Def, Aesop Rock, Drake, and even his good friend, comedian Hannibal Buress. The bad news for all his advocates is that his collaboration with frequent Danny Brown producer Paul White is a humble and restrained blow against the empire, but it is artistically rich and brilliant. The apt title Hella Personal Film Festival gets at Eagle's quest for deep meaning, and his use of literate and hip wit to cut away all the dreck. Highlight "Leave People Alone" offers the perhaps metaphorical "I want to paint things, but I can't hold still" right before the real and true "I miss my grandmother's smile and her oatmeal." "Check to Check" gets goofy with a happy bounce and wacky production straight from the house of Prince Paul, all as Eagle recites poem-worthy prose concerning social networks and the too-connected world ("My laptop don't sleep, open and shut case/I'm checkin' for mail while it's checkin' for updates"). "Smiling (Quirky Race Doc)" sounds like a Yeezus cut brought down to a conversational level with the Louis C.K. attitude of "I don't want you, your purse or your pocketbook/Those dumb yoga pants, boots, or fur with the octopus." Steely Dan-esque riffs fuel "Admitting the Endorphin Addiction," as a skilled and more subtle White fills this excellent LP with the spirit of '70s soul, rock, and funk. Maybe he didn't produce the calling-card single like he did for Danny Brown, but enigmas are enigmas because they're enigmas, and it just might take an album's length to capture all that's great about this MC. Sprawling and searching for truth, Hella Personal Film Festival is another excellent Open Mike Eagle album, and if it doesn't entice those with short attention spans, that's their loss.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries