Local Current Blog

Behind First Avenue’s Stars: Eyedea & Abilities

Freestyle battle champion, poet, MC, Rhymesayer, legend. Micheal David Larsen was Eyedea, one half of the famed hip-hop duo Eyedea & Abilities, and in 2015 we acknowledge the fifth year since the star’s passing. The pair were dubbed “local hip-hop wunderkinds…the Gene Kelly/Donald O’Connor of bohemian battle-rap” and “the most celebrated Twin Cities rap group this side of Atmosphere” by Pulse magazine.

Eyedea rose to fame through freestyle rap battles, winning titles in the late ’90s and early ’00s from Ohio to New York. In 2001, Eyedea teamed up with DJ Abilities to release a debut album, First Born. Working closely with Aesop Rock, Blueprint, Atmosphere’s Slug, and many other Rhymesayers artists, Eyedea was known among his peers as “an artist in its truest form,” as the Rhymesayers website puts it.

In a 2004 interview with Pulse, Eyedea & Abilities voiced big dreams for their future, in the wake of their second album E&A. “We want to create great, epic songs,” said Eyedea. He looked up to and was influenced by musicians and groups ranging from Jimi Hendrix to OutKast to Radiohead.

Announcing their album release party for E&A, Peter Scholtes of City Pages claimed the pair were far too young for their vocation and skill. “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.”

First Avenue and the 7th Street Entry were always important to Eyedea & Abilities. Larsen also played the venue with other projects, and many friends’ last memories of Eyedea were from a show at the Entry shortly before his death, when he stopped by to see Abilities perform with Pigeon John. Eyedea & Abilities were honored with their own star in 2010, and friends and fans gathered in the Mainroom that November to honor Eyedea in a touching celebration.

Eyedea will again be celebrated in the Mainroom on Nov. 9, on what would have been his 34th birthday. He’ll also surely be in the thoughts of his Rhymesayers family when the label celebrates its 20th anniversary on Dec. 4, just across the street at Target Center.

Larsen may also be the only person to have stars both on First Avenue and in the sky: in 2013, a special gift was made to Eyedea’s mother, Kathy Averill. A star, located in the Pictor constellation in the southern sky, was named for Eyedea through the Online Star Register. The registration document includes lyric’s from Eyedea’s song, “Music Music”:

The core of our spirit is naked
The form of its lyrics are sacred
Blanketed by the original sound of the inner vibrations
I’m floating on the soft clouds of positive creation

Madie Ley is studying journalism and art history at the University of St. Thomas. She writes about music and art. Luke Taylor contributed reporting to this article.

Behind First Avenue’s Stars

Babes in Toyland
Har Mar Superstar
Hüsker Dü
The Magnolias