Editor's Note (Part One): After years of being a straight "white bread" (emphasis on the "white") indie kid, I, at at ripe age of twenty-six, was finally coerced into getting to rap music by John Brunner, the man behind RFC sister site Mezzic and an occasional contributor here as well. Getting Amber into rap, I'm sure John would tell you, was an uphill battle as, to be honest, I just didn't get it. After Brunner started my love affair with Gayngs, he finally got me into gayng member P.O.S., and gingerly, I came around. One of the other rappers I took a shine to was Eyedea & Abilities. Sadly, this was far too short of a time ago. Yet even I, with my rudimentary knowledge of rap, I was stricken silent at the news that Micheal "Eyedea" Larson died on the 16th. I wish I knew how to say it more eloquently, to reference the years of art Eyedea gave the world, and to pay proper respect to the man but simply put, I can't. Even so, I still feel the void left by Eyedea in not only the Minneapolis community but also in art itself. Eyedea wasn't just a rapper. He was an artist. And even though I can't properly pay Larson his dues, I feel as Emanuel Vison can - and does - do a bang up job.
Twenty-eight is crazy young by any standard. Michael Larsen (aka Eyedea), however, could have made it seem old as shit. Or at least made the rest of us seem lazy as shit by comparison to his lifelong drive and output. At fifteen he was writing what would become Eyedea & Abilities' cult classic debut. Before he graduated high school he was winning national freestyle tournaments competing against people twice his age. He was a verified underground hip-hop veteran before he could legally drink, and when we talked at the end of last summer he was still going full-steam.
At the very least he was actively at work on another solo album (the second in the Oliver Hart series), two records and a film with his improvised free jazz/rap collective Face Candy, and was playing guitar on the upcoming debut of a collaborative group called Guitar Party that featured the work of Andrew Broder (of Why? and Fog), Michael's friend Jeremy, as well as Jeremy's six year old daughter.
When I met Eyedea in July, I was intensely nervous beforehand. It was my first interview, I was already sorta late from going to the wrong venue (The Bottom Lounge, not The Empty Bottle!), and I definitely didn't want him to feel like the only things I knew about his work came from speed-wikipedia'ing E&A, streaming their latest album via Youtube a couple times, and googling some of his older interviews for reference (full disclosure: that is exactly what I did). Also, underground rap icons can be notoriously cagey (seriously: Cage-y) in interviews, aggressively lashing out at the journalist because they're pissed at their own fan base's expectations.
It turned out I had no reason to worry though: he was beyond cool. Not in a world-renowned artist speaking to a "regular person" kind of way. Just as someone who was really interesting to talk to. Someone who had so much going on in his mind and was always working to get it out in the most thoughtful and genuine ways possible. He was vigorous and open-handed in his praise for other artists who excited and inspired him. He was quietly self-effacing, playing down his past achievements while showing how clearly energized he felt by the challenge of the ones on the horizon. If I had randomly met Eyedea at a party and we'd chatted outside for a couple hours while he smoked cigarettes (and I, uh, tape recorded him) it still would have been absolutely invigorating.
That's why it's kind of weird for me to even refer to him as Eyedea. Because I had never actually listened to his music before a couple months ago, I don't know him as Eyedea: he introduced himself as Michael and he talked to me like my name was Emanuel, not some weird journalist/blogger/fan or whatever. On a basic person-to-person level, it really meant a lot to me. My good friend Shawne came to the show with me and taped the interview. She didn't even like what she'd heard of E&A's music before that night but wound up perhaps even more transfixed by his personality and focus than myself.
Obviously I don't have anything comprehensive to say about Eyedea's art or life (though there are a lot of people who do), I just wanted to share an experience I had with a very cool dude. I had a great time talking to him, I had a great time watching him perform. He was considered, warm, open, inspiring, and it was a really awesome night.
Rest in peace.