Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is Open Mike Eagle’s RX-approved, imaginative, concept album about the lives, dreams, and stories that unfold in the remnants of Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes housing projects, which were demolished in 2007. Shot through with comic book imagery, charismatic wit, and razor-sharp insights, Brick Body Kids is Open Mike’s sixth solo LP, and also his best to date, as it challenges all former perceptions of what a concept album should and can be.
I met with Mike at Spot Cafe in Culver City to talk about the inspirations behind Brick Body Kids, the immaculate level of execution that brought the concept to life, and the most interesting original superhero around, The Legendary Iron Hood, a comic book-inspired character that Mike invented for the album, who makes multiple appearances in the lyrics and associated media (peep the video for “Brick Body Complex” below).
So, I guess the question I want to start off with really is: What age were you when you invented the Legendary Iron Hood?
I was 36. That’s all lore that I’m inventing kind of right now to describe the feelings of what it was like to be around there at that time. I wish that I had invented the Legendary Iron Hood when I was seven. That’s when it would have been most helpful.
Tell me about him. How flexed out is Iron Hood? Does he have powers? What’s his origin story?
I wrote these couple of lines about him one day. It was just like, “He’s got a helmet made out of a radiator.” Because all the project buildings in Chicago, they had radiators. They had a lot of iron in the buildings. We fashioned the helmet out of that. His whole thing is that he can put his head down and just walk through anything. He can walk through anything. Walk through walls.
Put his head down and walk through anything.
If it’s a blockade of hoodlums in front of the crib that’s the opposite set, he can just walk right through that. If Mom’s is tripping, he can just walk through the wall.
That’s resonates. There’s a line on “The Legendary Iron Hood” that goes, “I got swole ’cause I wanted revenge / My brother Charles got hurt when we was playing pretend / Started walking right then, just me and the wind / That asshole better hope I never see him again.” It’s exactly the hood tale in four bars. You know your best friend didn’t make it because they thought he wasn’t hard enough. You gotta be 10 times harder than he ever was.
But that’s the thing, it comes from a place of protection, but ultimately it turns into… now, he’s this hard dude. What access to humanity do you lose if you are constantly so hard that you don’t let anything affect you?
Since you didn’t have Legendary Iron Hood back then to protect you, walk me through a day in the life at the Robert Taylor homes.
Well, now keep in mind, I didn’t live there, but I spent a lot of time there, right? My aunt lived there. The most time I would ever spend there at a time, it’d be like … We’d be over there for a couple months out of the summer or something like that. But, I stayed about a mile away from my aunt, so I used to be there all the time, hoping my first cousin was there, because that was the kid around that was my age that we used to toss the football around with in the hallway. We used to play basketball, but there wasn’t no hoop, it was in the hallway. We were just trying to dribble past each other. Running up and down the stairs and maybe we’d go to the store or something. And I’d sit and watch the TV in the house.
You were an inside kid, you weren’t an outside kid?
I was outside when I was allowed to be outside. There was just a lot of danger outside. They wasn’t really trying to let us kick it because gun fighting was regular, there was a lot of people there, people around there doing harm to people, all kind of madness. They kept us pretty sheltered.