They say you can only measure a man’s legacy by the respect his peers have for him. If that’s truly the case then Eyedea’s legacy in Hip-Hop is legendary. When most people think of Hip-Hop I’m sure all the brainwashed huddled masses think of Drake, Lil’ Wayne, Rick Ross, Waka Flocka, and Gucci Mane. No, the Hip-Hop I’m talking about has much more integrity, art, and is far more edgy than all that mind numbing mish mash. I think about artists like Cage, Slug, MF Doom, Aesop Rock, P.O.S., Rakim, and Immortal Technique. Many of these names are not as popular as what’s currently playing on your radio. This is the music that has meaning, touches your soul, and gets you through the day. This is about the story driven masterpieces and the complex lyrical rhyme schemes that beg you to inspect the formula. This is the music that teeters and walks the tight rope of poetry and emceeing. The Indie Hip-Hop scene is so far ahead of current mainstream rap. The difference is so huge you could barely even put them in the same category. It was artists like these that lead me down a road to make Hip-Hop music as well. Another great member of this fraternity was none other than Eyedea. Without a doubt Eyedea was a major influence in shaping the landscape of underground Hip-Hop.
Micheal Larsen aka Eyedea was a force to be reckoned with behind the microphone. With his long time friend Abilities the MC/DJ pair took Minneapolis by storm. Taking on all comers in the local battle circuit since 1997. Eyedea managed to take several high-profile wins at 1999’s Scribble Jam. Most notably many would probably remember Eyedea from 2000’s HBO-televised Blaze-Battle World Championships. Before Eyedea & Abilities were an MC/DJ pair, they were just Mike Larsen and Gregory Keltgen, two friends from Minneapolis. Many rumors were circulating over possible deals with Puff Daddy or Eminem, but nothing really came of any of it. Eyedea & Abilities finally found their home with fellow Minnesotans Rhymesayers, and released their debut album, First Born, in 2001. A major departure from the battle raps they’ve been known for, First Born was an introspective concept album musing about the state of hip-hop and life. Not too long after that Eyedea explored jazz concepts and then later did an alternative rock project. As of 2006, Eyedea temporarily abandoned Hip-Hop writing and battle rapping for a new rock music project entitled Carbon Carousel. Eyedea successfully did what 4 years later Lil’ Wayne failed to do: transition into rock and make some great music.
Many speculated that Eyedea & Abilities had broken up; this rumor was later proven false. In 2009 the album from Eyedea & Abilities, By The Throat was released. The duo’s last album together and without a doubt truly a triumphant feat. Like many current indie Hop-Hop artists, Eyedea began to adopt a more alternative rock flavor with his music. With the Release of several music videos, you can clearly see the new direction that was being taken with such songs as Junk. Eyedea was no doubt one of a kind in whatever he did. Even today many still consider the delivery of his flow unorthodox and poetic. There was nothing fancy or pretty about the way Eyedea spit; that’s what made him special. Even his look wasn’t the typical Hip-Hop template that most people follow. His look was reminiscent of a ‘90s grunge musician. The melancholy and sad voice of Eyedea reflects an artist that unfortunately will never get his due. Eyedea would never go on to receive a Grammy, MTV award, or Source award. Eyedea was awarded respect from every emcee and fan he met.
On October 16, 2010 Eyedea died in his sleep. According to friends, he was found dead by his mother. At the time the cause of death is unknown.
I still remember the first song that initially got me into Eyedea, Monster Inside. I can still remember being a sophomore in high school blasting that in my car in the school parking lot. Everyone in the lot had no idea what was I playing. I relished the fact I was listening to something about 75% of my school was not hip to. While they still clamored over the Nas Vs Jay-Z beef, I was becoming addicted to the Rhymesayers nation. It was music like his that let you know you’re not alone and you’re not the only one. The day he died many of his loving fans played Smile in tribute of him. With his death the underground Hip-Hop scene was dealt a major blow. Every artist and fan can feel the sorrow of losing a truly gifted and special artist. It’s not often we get honesty and an artist so multifaceted that he can cross genres. Indie Hip-Hop artist Cage was clearly sad from his last facebook status, which mourned his friend Mike’s death. For many Hip-Hop fans this is like losing a long time friend you grew up with as well. For now I leave you with a quote of a man Eyedea was compared to many times, Chales Bukowski : “When you take it away, do it slowly and easily. Make it as if I were dying in my sleep instead of in my life, amen.”