There's an unnerving darkness permeating local emcee Ecid's newly-released album Werewolf Hologram. He wrote, produced and mixed a record that's twisted and chock-full alliterative wordplay. With something so gritty and realized, it's hard to believe it's coming from an artist who's received such little attention over the years.
It's been a decade since Ecid, who's 28 now, first started rapping and he's already released a considerable body of work. This time, he thinks he's finally found his voice. "In a way this is like a whole new era for me," he says. "Everything I made, I put it out, but I knew a lot of it wasn't good enough to make a huge impact. It helped me build a small fan base but, at least the way I feel about it, [Werewolf Hologram] is it."
In the past decade, Ecid endured his fair share of life-changing experiences that contributed to his growth. He divorced his high school sweetheart at the age of 24. The year prior to that, he had witnessed an old friend slapped with a manslaughter charge that resulted in an 11-year prison sentence. But in the midst of all that personal turmoil, Ecid insists nothing had a bigger impact on his artistic and personal evolution than his relationship with the ever-revered St. Paul emcee Micheal Larsen, better known by his rap moniker Eyedea, who passed away in October 2010.
"He didn't have to take me under his wing at all," Ecid says. "He was the first person outside my circle of friends or peers that really reached out and said 'man, you're dope.' But at the same time he gave me constructive criticism that changed it all." In one of the album's highlights "Back from Japan," Ecid pays ode to his late mentor and friend (who also makes a guest appearance on the album) as he rhymes: "He taught me to how to think/ without thinking twice/ go as high as you can until the sky is afraid of heights/ Don't burn a bridge without jumping off it first/if you survive the fall/then you better kiss the dirt."
With Werewolf Hologram, Ecid manages to take hip-hop to a place far more bleak and strange than his local peers. From the high-strung clamor of "I Heart Gravity" to the mournful "Oh Well," he proves he can be just as poignant as he is contentious. But while the songs are all edged with a certain level of anger, the album is more of a catharsis, a much-needed kiss off to the "mid-20 pessimist" that he once was.
"When you're in early 20's you're like 'Damn the Man.' Well, why be mad about it? Why not try to be a beam of positivity? That way you can change things instead. I feel like I got over a lot of that stuff."
But cynicism wasn't the only thing Ecid left behind during the making of Werewolf Hologram. Last year he made a pact with himself to quit drinking until he found a manager or a booking agent, eventually finding one after seven months. He still drinks but claims he keeps it to a minimum. After all, it doesn't pair too well with his yoga routine.
"I wasted a lot of money on tour. It beats you up both mentally and physically," Ecid said. "And I do heat yoga so if you drink at all after it, you tend to get a headache."
While Ecid doesn't boast the same crossover commercial appeal as our Rhymesayers kingpins, he's one of the more thoughtful and interesting local emcees to emerge in recent memory. He's assured but not arrogant, biting but not belligerent, and his social commentary would come off as snooty if it wasn't couched in such intricate wordplay.
Werewolf Hologram serves as a proper introduction (or re-introduction) to an artist finally hitting his stride while developing a clearer understanding as to who he is as a person. But while he says happy with the new record, he's not all of a sudden complacent about his. Ecid insists his ambitions transcend the confines of the Twin Cities and the underground.
"Who wants to be average? I don't want to have an average career and be some underground guy," Ecid said. "If I get lucky enough and can get into the right channels, I feel like my lyrics are relatable enough and honest enough where I can make a difference in the scene and bring light to the fact you can still make creative, good rap music."
Ecid plays a Werewolf Hologram release party with Kristoff Krane, Awol One, Carnage, and David Mars at Triple Rock Social Club at 9 p.m. Friday, March 2. Tickets cost $8-$10. Click here.
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