Monday, October 18, 2010

RIP Eyedea, 1981-2010

Really saddened me to hear that Eyedea of Rhymesayers Entertainment passed away earlier today at the age of 28. Some of you may know him as the amazing freestyle battler that won both Scribble Jam (1999, back when it mattered) and Blaze Battle (2000, HBO sponsored, televised, featuring lots of prominent rap types) back to back when he was only 18 years old. Or some of you may know him from the various albums he put out with DJ Abilities, or solo as Oliver Hart, or the times he murked guest spots on other people's albums (his show-stealing verse on "Savior?" from Anticon's "Music for the Advancement of Hip Hop" comes to mind). Either way, he was a super talented individual, not to mention an uncompromising musician that made the music he wanted to make regardless of what anyone said.

To relay some of my personal experiences seeing Eyedea: the first time I saw him live was with my best friend at the first underground rap show the two of us ever trekked out to and paid money for. The line-up consisted of Atmosphere (pre-"God Loves Ugly," Sad Clown Bad Dub 3 was for sale), Bicasso of Living Legends, Eyedea & Abilities, and Brother Ali at Slim's in San Francisco. While most of the acts delivered, my friend and I can both say that Eyedea was hands down our favorite act of that evening. He stole the show with a personality that had my friend dubbing him "the Inspector Gadget of rap," going through a lot of quirky and interesting motions that kept the audience super entertained. For his solo songs, I remember he pretended that he had a fake band with him there, and he asked the audience to give it up for the imaginary players as each instrument was added to the mix he crafted for himself. He also did an amazing and hilarious freestyle based on two words shouted at random from the audience, which in this case happened to be "condoms" and "pubic hair." The sheer volume of hilarious lines he came up with using those two words was straight up phenomenal, and had the entire audience applauding and cracking up. A truly memorable performance.

Another time that I vividly remember seeing Eyedea & Abilities live was on one of their headlining tours when they passed through Washington DC at the 9:30 Club. The line-up was E&A, Blueprint, Illogic & DJ Przm, and Grayskul. While Blueprint definitely stole the show that evening, Eyedea & Abilities impressed as always with their closing set, demonstrating a really frantic and uncontrollable energy throughout their performance. This show is a particularly odd one for me to think about, because I remember how friendly DJ Przm was to my friend and I, and his passing away in 2007 struck me hard for that reason. Now, another name is dropping from the list of people I saw at that evening...

Perhaps the most tragic thing about Eyedea's passing is that, while he has a few solid albums under his belt (Oliver Hart "How Eye Won the Write to Think," E&A "By the Throat" - I know that one gets hate, but I like it lots) I feel like he may have never dropped his true magnum opus to universal acclaim. Still, I greatly appreciate the work he put in over the years, and as a young excited hip hop head, his music had a great influence on my tastes. Rest in Peace.

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