Eyedea and Abilities: E&A

Eyedea and Abilities
Epitaph/Rhymesayers Entertainment

Remember 1988, when rap music farted greatness? Or 1984, when punk rock quit worrying about being dead long enough to produce its best albums? Of course you don't. Like most people planning their lives around Eyedea and Abilities' album-release party on Sunday, you're too young. Me, I'm old, and Minnesota music circa 2004 feels like old times: local artists upping the ante on each other, building momentum, creating a movement. First came the Owls CD in January, then P.O.S., and now Eyedea and Abilities, who are also too young. This rapper and turntablist have perfect names, which combine together to evoke old-school teamwork and MC-DJ balance. They are live sensations, the only performers recruited from the ranks of the Rhymesayers' teenaged audience to join the crew itself. Having released a 2001 debut full of piss and metaphors, First Born, they now follow their friends Atmosphere into mass distribution via Epitaph.

But Eyedea admits that he hasn't lived enough to feel the meaning of the L-word. On "Exhausted Love," Abilities quotes Luis Buñuel via the Richard Linklater film Slacker, sampling the line: "I may live badly, but at least I don't have to work to do it." Then Eyedea announces that the work he's talking about is emotional: "I ain't changing for you/I ain't reaching for the sky/I would/If you could/Give me even one reason why/I should/Even try." But if that MC Escher staircase of an internal rhyme feels like effortless fun for Eyedea--he seems to enjoy talking about how he can't talk--you still begin to suspect that he's addressing his young audience, not some imagined paramour: "After a while, this never-ending lame game of what's better could fracture your smile's main frame forever."

This from a battle champion! Eyedea might be a little like Bugs Bunny without Elmer Fudd, hunting himself even when falling back on shit-talk, a fast talent going in circles. But there's salvation in friends. Guest MC Carnage hilariously lets us hear him shuffling his vast notebook pages before rhyming "abomination" with "stomp your face in." And DJ Abilities, a born showoff and another competitive champion, somehow goes against his own nature by making you forget he's there. When he scratches, it's to make juicy funk--or to make a point. He cuts the Xzibit line, "Never a superstar/I'm more like a planet" to remind us that Eyedea is from Mars, but that's where we're all going to be living in 30 years anyway.

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