October 16 will always be remembered around the Twin Cities as the day Micheal Larsen died.
The talented emcee also known as Eyedea was found unresponsive by his mother in St. Paul, having died in his sleep of an overdose. He was only 28 years old, and he'd already left an indelible mark on his hometown.
Through his battle-rap history and affiliations with groups like the Orphanage, Face Candy, Carbon Carousel, Puppy Dogs and Ice Cream, Guitar Party, and, most notably, Eyedea & Abilities, Eyedea touched a wide swath of artists, prompting a sorrowful reaction that spread through the hip-hop community — one that was too broad to be captured in one list.
Though City Pages writer Chaz Kangas counted five must-hear tributes to the late Eyedea back in May, his list couldn't have compiled every nod to the St. Paul visionary. On the fifth anniversary of Eyedea's passing, the ripples of his death are still pulsing through the music industry, as scores of Eyedea's peers and admirers have taken to wax to memorialize the rap visionary.
As we take time today to remember the life and career of Larsen, City Pages has decided to collect another handful of the most poignant tributes to Eyedea.
5) B. Dolan — "Still Here"
From House of Bees, Vol. 2 (2012)
Far from mourning, Providence rapper B.Dolan uses Eyedea's death as a catalyst to become more indestructible than ever. Reflecting on the loss of his father and Beastie Boys emcee Adam Yauch, Dolan springs forward from an existential crisis to rally himself around the memory of his idols, enshrining Larsen in the chorus of, "Still here, still here / You can kill the man but never the Eyedea."
The wordplay is the only transparent nod to Larsen, but hearing B.Dolan's sense of purpose resurrect following the three tragedies and centered on the St. Paul rapper shows how, through his death, Eyedea ceased being merely a person and became a symbol of determination.
4) Astronautalis — Eyedea freestyle
Recorded during a 2010 set in Albuquerque, this portrait-filmed video from Minnesota-by-way-of-Florida rapper Astronautalis shows how Eyedea's ability to freestyle emboldened complete strangers to chase their dreams and develop their nascent talent.
Astro's account of Eyedea's death in our print issue this week elaborates more on how the genre-bending rapper found influence in Eyedea's fluidity, but this raw, unrehearsed catharsis that came just months after Larsen's passing seeths with an emotion the printed words couldn't match. As Astronautalis remembers Mikey's influence on his own career, he slips into a meditation on his own mortality and uses the lesson as yet another source of inspiration.
3) The Uncluded — "Bats"
From Hokey Fright (2013)
"Is that an old-fashioned funeral? Ew, change the station/I’d rather tune in for a life celebration." Sang by anti-folkster Kimya Dawson on her collaborative album with Aesop Rock, this lyric epitomizes the message of "Bats" — that Eyedea's life should be looked back on as a blessing despite the tragedy.
As Rock introduces Dawson to Eyedea's mother and explains to her the rapper's significance, the two begin to ford the friendship that resulted in 2013's Hokey Fright. The odd couple embark on a cathartic roadtrip to Austin, Texas, to glimpse a bridge with a historic bat population, ultimately leaving with the understanding that, instead of purging their memories of Larsen, they should honor his legacy — and that's just what "Bats" does.
2) Atmosphere — "My Key"
From The Family Sign (2011)
Kangas included Atmosphere's "Flicker," from their 2014 LP Southsiders on his list, but unsurprisingly, Eyedea's mentor/contemporary Slug penned more than one tribute to his departed labelmate. Three years prior, on 2011's The Family Sign, Atmosphere's first full-length following Eyedea's death, Slug shouted out Larsen on "Millennium Dodo," but he opens up fully with the heartbreaking "My Key."
"My Key" is one of Slug's most sentimental offerings to date, showcasing how deeply he valued his camaraderie with Eyedea. "Now close your eyes and crack a smile if you know me / While I spit into the sky cause I miss the little homie," Slug raps in the poetic momentum-builder, hearkening back to the days when Sep Sev and the 16-year-old Mikey would split cyphers.
The song is also a nod from Atmosphere producer Ant, who uses playful, childlike keys and swelling guitars to express his own anguish from behind the boards.
1) Kristoff Krane — "Always Be a Friend"
From fanfaronade (2012)
No compilation of Eyedea tributes would be complete without word from Larsen's best friend and frequent collaborator, Kristoff Krane. Responding to and echoing the last line of Eyedea & Abilities' By the Throat, wherein Eyedea states, "Please know no matter what you'll always have me as a friend," Krane's turn at memorializing Mikey showcases how their friendship impacted and altered him.
Though he despairs the fact that they'll never share another phone call, he's ultimately enriched and strengthened from the years he'd spent touring and performing with Eyedea. Over a kicked-back and snare-heavy beat, Krane keeps an even flow that betrays the ache in lines like, "I find myself between feeling bad for what I lost / And feeling grateful for the privilege of knowing you for so long." It's perhaps the most elegant obituary Micheal Larsen ever received.
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