The World Has No Eyedea is not a film about Eyedea.
It’s about Mikey.
Though first-time filmmaker Brandon Crowson set out to make a documentary covering the life and exploits of his icon, St. Paul indie-rap hero Micheal “Eyedea” Larsen, he could not subdue his fanatical love for the man to do so. In his hands, the hours of archival footage could never come together in an objective film. The World Has No Eyedea takes the living document of Mikey Larsen’s life and gives it its most defining entry.
Premiered during last April’s Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, the film has been traveling for most of 2016, selling out theaters along the West Coast. But when it finally came back to Minneapolis for its first hometown solo showing Sunday night at the Parkway Theater, Crowson wanted to book a special evening that gave an even broader context to the content of the film.
The evening -- which will be replicated Wednesday in Duluth -- opened up with Eyedea’s Crushkill Recordings labelmate Ecid, who did a largely slapdash set that intertwined his music with anecdotes about his relationship with Larsen. “That was like a hurricane that blew through our lives,” Ecid said of Larsen’s sudden death in 2010 before launching into “Right Now,” a determination anthem inspired by his late friend. Like the film itself, Ecid’s set was loose and purposefully DIY.
Introduced by Larsen's mother, Kathy Averill, the film began with a surprising lack of emotion. Averill's introduction was canny and wry, and the movie’s opening shots were slapped together without any sense of the deep tragedy it was about to explore.
This is because, at this point, Eyedea fandom is well past the point of hero worship. It’s actually transcended into a veritable subculture. A near religion of people who lay constant witness to a life that amazes the more you understand about it.
The World Has No Eyedea may have set out to be the introduction and indoctrination for converts, but it functions better as fan candy. Going into exacting detail about Eyedea’s early life, b-boy phase, battle rap rise, and eventual death, it’s a highly involved 90 minutes. It’s not a casual look because Crowson isn’t a casual filmmaker. He’s an obsessive, so the story he tells is obsessive.
And that’s what the crowd at the Parkway wanted last night.
We see Mikey at age seven on a trampoline, eliciting snorts from the audience who knows him so well. Claps break out after footage of him shutting down emcees on stage in New York City cuts. Everyone laughs when Slug talks shit about his muscular neck. These moments go by like a family photo album being flipped. Joey Alpha’s tears become everybody’s when he breaks down talking about the lessons Eyedea taught him.
Then there’s the gut punch. As the stories about Eyedea begin to turn to his drug use, questions of blame and responsibility surface. Averill’s extremely candid recollection of finding Mikey dead, face-down in his mattress, is by far the most intimate account of his last days ever published. In a room full of devotees one week from that day’s sixth anniversary, the grief was stifling. No one was ready for it, and no one could have received it the same way.
Without spoiling the ending more, there is an enduring moment of triumph that well overshadows the film's production problems and nearly despairing third act. It solicited a wild chain of whoops and an ultimate ovation as the credits hit.
From there, Crowson and Averill took the stage to answer questions. With so many hardcores in attendance, most of the questions had a sentimental glint. One man asked Averill to describe the reaction Mikey’s middle school teachers had to him. Another asked Crowson about the difficulty of putting such a big piece of his heart on film. The discourse went well into nerd territory, which was a perfect setup for Carnage the Executioner’s set.
As one of Mikey’s longest cohorts and the partial champion of the film, Carnage is himself a document of Eyedea’s life. One that’s almost as thorough as The World Has No Eyedea. Between a breathless set of beatboxes and verses, the Twin Cities MC wove a portrait of Eyedea’s impact on his life, a statement punctuated by his early performance of “The Coaches,” where he talks about how Eyedea challenged him to become the artist he is today.
Everyone in the room last night had a story that could stand next to Carnage's own, even if it wasn’t personal. Even if it was experiences at the end of a headphone wire instead of in person. Eyedea is the kind of artist who embeds himself in you. It’s a fandom that’s become a personality trait. The kind of mentality that makes a lovingly injudicious 90-minute history feel like it’s not nearly enough.