Rapper, writer, poet. Eyedea was all of these things, and on Saturday when he left the world he so fearlessly captured in his lyrics, it seemed there were no words to do him justice.
In his 28 years, Micheal Larsen carved his initials indelibly in Twin Cities hip-hop history, inspiring countless people along the way with his feverish performances, unforgettable battle raps, genuine approach to life, and famous gap-toothed smile.
Here, fans and friends share what Eyedea meant to them.
"He's one of the reasons that a lot of people -- not just me -- got into hip hop in the first place. He was a huge figure in the post-Rawkus indie hip-hop movement. Aside from that, he was a good dude and he was hilarious. He will definitely be missed. He and Abilities were [initially] called Sixth Sense and had a song on that Headshots tape - I think it was called "Techniques." Me and Mike Mictlan would drive around and listen to that."
"Mikey always pushed the boundaries of what was accepted as truth and commonplace and was always reaching for something greater. He made everyone around him better because he had such a confidence and charisma about him that it was infectious and impossible to ignore. The only comfort I can take in his passing is knowing that where ever he is now, he's doing just fine because he never had trouble making friends or finding his own path.
Mikey carried almost a child-like sense of curiosity and exploration with him that set him apart from most. He was a couple years younger than me but I always saw him as a teacher. I also thought of him as a student who was always eager to learn; there were few subjects that he was not interested in learning about and even mastering, from martial arts, slight-of-hand magic tricks, quantum physics and stand up comedy, to name a few.
I started performing with Eyedea & (DJ) Abilities as their 'hype-man/back-up vocalist' in 1997 when we were all still in high school. I was hugely influenced by such talented and passionate artists and even back then I knew that Mikey was special and would leave a lasting impact on music or whatever he decided to do with himself. He was looked at as almost a child prodigy when it came to his freestyle improvisation abilities, and quickly recognized by his peers and everyone in the local hip hop community as an undeniable force to be reckoned with. We ended up touring North America and the UK together and it was Mikey's hilarious, spontaneous wit and sense of humor that helped pass the long, meandering hours on the road and his off-the-cuff personality that created classic stories almost faster than we could recount and reflect on old ones. He was always fun to be around and very knowledgeable about music, which he studied with an admirable devotion. I lost a friend and the world lost a wonderful artist and caring human being, gone before his time. Rest."
Alexei Moon Casselle aka Crescent Moon
"I remember doing a guitar session for him way back in the day. He had piano books and vocal books everywhere in his basement studio. H said he was teaching himself piano and taking vocal lessons. We actually sat down and had a mini guitar lesson; I taught him barre chords and he taught me what it took to be a complete artist. He reminded me of a famous painter working on all cylinders 24 hours a day. A creative intellectual. He just wanted to make cool art. He was unafraid of new territory, and he was willing to be vulnerable artistically. I also remember him mentioning his close knit supportive family. It seemed they understood him and let him flourish as an individual. I always thought that was beautiful."
"I'm not the most outgoing person in the world, but Micheal always made sure everyone in the room knew my name. Backstage at the Pigeon John show on Friday was no different; as soon as we got down there he stopped the conversation and asked the trademark question: 'Does everyone know my friend Brady?'
Slug once said he took Mikey under his wing because he was afraid of him, and I believed it. But Eyedea was also the kind of light that would shine whether or not anyone was there to see it. The same rock star who could take a club's breath away was as happy handing out numbered, hand-painted CDs to a few fans after a night of jazz improvisation or punk. There was an innocence about Eyedea that was pure. I loved and championed his last album with Abilities, but the moment was the thing for Michael. He was always excited about what was coming next. That's what I'll take away from Eyedea. He was a truly funny, sweet, and generous person, and I'll miss him."
"I wish he was still here. He was one of the kindest and most down to earth people I ever knew in the local scene and was part of my inspiration (along with the rest of Rhymesayers) to pursue my dreams of doing radio and hip-hop. Micheal "Eyedea" Larsen, may you rest in peace. You might not be here in the physical sense, but you are still with us in every waking moment. Especially when you recited the following from "Hay Fever," which I would say is fitting: Winter takes the warm away, spring takes the cold away, summer takes the rain away and fall took away my friend."
Analyrical, Background Noise Crew
"I remember hanging with Mike at the last Wu Tang show with ODB and even then he was very well respected. He was a hell of a cool guy and well deserved of anything he ever got."
Stephen Golden, owner of Sicmats
"Eyedea was a pleasure to shoot. He always had such an up-beat and creative energy. Each performance I experienced felt like an evolution to the next level of artistic excellence. I posted this pic yesterday on Facebook from our City Pages slideshow, and said how he told me he had worn these sneakers for years. Brother Ali's wife commented on my link, saying that her and Ali were talking about Eyedea's sneakers and how he was always known for that pair. People loved him."
"One of the most inspiring lyricists and easily the most fascinating people to hold a conversation with that I have ever had the honor of meeting. The world is a lesser place."
"The first time I saw Eyedea was when he was doing shows with Atmosphere - it was Eyedea, Ablities, and Slug. It was over 10 years ago but I will never forget that lineup, it really turned me on to hip hop and and made me appreciate the art. I'll never forget him doing "God's Bathroom Floor" or "Scapegoat," or the many other times I saw him afterwards. I thank him for turning me on to the music and will forever be thankful."
Later that night a group of us freestyled around a tiki bar at a backyard party. Mike made sure everybody there spit a few lines, even if it was their first and only cypher. The subject matter turned metaphysical and he started up a rap dialogue about the finitude of existence and the unknowable, mysterious nature of the universe. I've never heard anybody speak so articulately, meaningfully, or eloquently about sometime so abstract-- and he did it while freestyling. Michael was a philosopher, a poet, and an inspiration to anyone who was blessed to cross his path. Rest easy."
"It is always a shock when we lose someone unexpectedly, someone with so much talent and creativity, and someone who had a big heart. Over the years I had gotten to know Eyedea through my camera lens, at Radio K on The Beat Box, and at various concerts, events, and house parties. An inspiration to many, filled with energy and laughter, his voice may have been silenced too soon but will live until the end of time. Mikey you will be missed..."
"Here's a video of Eyedea taken at the Black Dog Café this summer. I remember him from the Rhymesayers Collective but had not seen him in a while. What an amazingly fluent performer. I am not a hip-hop fan but do love poetry... I was blown away by Eyedea's lyrics, which seem to be a finished product even though it was obviously improvised. He started out the evening eating a slice of pizza, then describing the pizza and how it slid into his empty belly to fill a void, talked about the natural ingredients nurturing him. It was amazing, truly, to see someone so inventive."
"I assumed that I would see you again, that I would be able to thank you for all the wisdom you shared so long ago, for the anecdotal warnings against "bad trips", for the "high road" advice, for the encouragement to just be me, for asking me to sit on the ground and really feel the grass, for telling me to get on a city bus and just go because life is about the journey and not the destination, for always singing Pink Floyds, "we don't need no education...", for not laughing when I freestyled and wrote you a cheesy poem, for "'all of her heart!' get it?!", for being you...you were always a beautiful and brilliant star, long before the whole world knew it. You will be missed, Mikey."
Last time I saw him, we were doing a freestyle show for Ghostband John in the basement of Library in Dinkytown about a month ago. We chatted outside for a second, about nothing really. But when we were going back and forth freestyling I felt like we were having a conversation we never got to have since we've known eachother. I'm glad for that. I keep thinking about all these things and more since [Sunday] when Stef (POS) woke me up and told me. Me and Mikey loved/did the same things and we were close in age and we lived in these amazing cities and scene. There's no tweet or status update to explain how we all feel -- friends, associates, acquaintances, fans. i just wanted everyone to know that I'm thinking about Mikey too..... damn. Didn't ever wanna have to do this but RIP Micheal "EYEDEA" Larsen.
Have a memory or thought you'd like to share with us about Eyedea? Drop us an e-mail. We will continue to update this post throughout the week.
Previous City Pages interviews with Eyedea:
- What's the big Eyedea? by Peter S. Scholtes, 2001
- Eyedea & Abilities on new record: 'People are gonna hate' by Dan Marcoulis, 2008
- Eyedea & Abilities talk about By the Throat by Carl Atiya Swanson, 2009
- Eyedea talks touring, festivals, and his dream of standup comedy by Tigger Lunney, 2010