Today marks the two-year anniversary of the death of Micheal “Eyedea” Larsen, an inventive hip-hop artist who passed away from an accidental overdose at the young age of 28. Larsen left an imprint on the international hip-hop world with his legendary battle-rap skills and his work in the Rhymesayers duo act Eyedea & Abilities, and was a vibrant figure in the local experimental scene with projects like Carbon Carousel and Face Candy.
But Larsen’s legacy extends far beyond the work he did on stage. Minneapolis-based collective F to I to X was recently founded in Larsen’s memory by a group of his close friends, and today, another former tour partner and friend has released a powerful ode to an artist whose artistic spirit continues to serve as an inspiration.
Rapper Sadistik is based in Seattle, but he has many ties to the Twin Cities scene. He’s made so many friends here over the years that he says he feels “much more supported and at home and involved when I play a show in Minnesota than when I do here [in Seattle].” Sadistik developed a close friendship with Larsen over the last few years of his life, and was with Larsen’s mother and friend Kristoff Krane the morning they discovered he had died. It’s a memory that he paints in vivid detail in the video for “Micheal,” which he specifically requested be debuted here in Minnesota, and he says he strived to tell it as passionately and honestly as Larsen would have done.
Sadistik is asking Eyedea fans to donate to a fund set up by Larsen’s mother, Kathy Averill, who is assembling friends to perform a play called A Vaudeville Presentation of Big Shots for his birthday next month. “‘Big Shots” is a song off the First Born album that Eyedea and Abilities made when they were in high school,” Averill explained over email. “It is about finding your way in high school. It’s quite the funny song. A few years ago my mom asked Mikey to make the song into a play. [They] had talked about many parts of it, but never got around to writing it, so I asked one of his good friends to write a scene and we would put it on for his birthday, which is November 9. So on Saturday, November 10, we are having a show that has three scenes, all based on the song ‘Big Shots.’ Abilities will be doing a set, and so will C-Rayz Walz. We have a few unannounced guests, too.”
More information about the play is posted on MichealLarsen.com. And read on for more of Sadistik’s thoughts on paying tribute to Micheal Larsen in his new song, how he selected the people who appear in the video, and why he feels that memorializing his famous fallen friend is such a fragile endeavor.
Local Current: Tell me more about your relationship with Micheal Larsen. How long did you know each other? How did you meet?
Sadistik: I first met him in 2008. I contacted him asking if he’d be interested in doing a song together, and he was, and then we ended up doing a show together and things clicked with us, I think more than he expected. So I was waiting for him to do his part on this song, which he already had written, and then we met, did the show, and hung out, and he understood my vibe more, and then he told me, ‘You know what, I’m going to redo this. Now that I get a vibe of what you’re about, I want to make this better.’ We just kind of clicked, and I became friends with Kristoff Krane through him, who was kind of his protege and best friend, and then I ended up booking a tour with Kristoff, and Mike called me asking if he could come along and sell merch and play acoustic sets. So we went on a tour together and we bonded a lot during that time. And I bonded with Kristoff as well.
The song “Micheal” recalls the day he died with incredible, emotional detail. What led you to write and record a song about that particularly painful period of time?
Honestly, I didn’t really want to write about it. My writing is usually a little more abstract and not so specific, but I heard this instrumental version of it and something just clicked. It’s obviously a topic I think about often, and so it’s just kind of scarier for me, as a writer, to write things so — I don’t know, I feel kind of naked about it, especially releasing this song first. It’s a pretty vulnerable song. Like the song states, I happened to be there when we found him, with his mom and Kristoff Krane, and that was a very heavy experience for me, obviously, and it’s something I never really told people outside of my immediate circle. It’s not something I was public with, so people won’t understand that that happened until they hear this song.
I was scared to write about it because it’s so fragile. I don’t want to come off like, hey I knew Eyedea! He was a good rapper! I don’t want it to be exploitive. I wanted it to be like I knew Micheal, and he was a really good person to me. It’s just such a fragile topic, to not look exploitive or selfish.
Do you feel like performing from a more vulnerable place is a way to pay tribute to him?
I mean, he influenced me a lot. He influenced me a lot before I knew him as a person, he influenced more when I knew him, and even now after he passed away he influences me. He was kind of like my drinking buddy on that tour, and one thing we would discuss is that I’m a very technical artist, and I’m very pedantic and obsessive with improving aspects and studying skills. So I would talk to him about that, because he was one of the people that I would study, and one thing where we differed is that my vocals were very layered, very precise, very meticulously crafted. And his were more raw, natural — he could record a great song in an hour. And me, I would record it and then come back every day for three weeks, and keep tweaking it. And so we would discuss that a lot. This song is easily the most naked song, lyrically, and the most naked song texturally. There aren’t a lot of layers, it’s very empty, it’s very Eyedea-ish. I kind of did that as a nod to him.
How did you choose the Peter Gabriel song “In Your Eyes” for the backing track? Does that song have a particular meaning to you?
I didn’t specifically set out for that. The guy who produced that, Eric G., he always just sends me ideas that he thinks would click for me, and he sent that with that sample and it immediately just made me think of Mike. And then I pretty much sat in my room for two days and just worked on it. All my roommates were going crazy because there’s a ‘ding’ drum that’s kind of an elevator sound, and I live on the third story of my house and I was basically playing it for two days straight, really loud, so everybody in the house would just hear that ‘ding, ding.’
The video depicts a series of people – some that I recognize from the local music community – holding up signs. The signs seem to contain personal messages about their relationship to Micheal. What were they prompted to write on the signs? And what else can you tell me about the people shown in the video?
That was my idea. Again, I wanted this to be more about Micheal instead of Eyedea. Because everybody knows Eyedea is dope. That’s not a very arguable thing. People know he was good at rap, I don’t feel like I need to tell people that. I wanted it to be more of a personal thing, because through meeting him I ended up just knowing a lot of Minnesota folks. Kristoff Krane has become one of my best friends through Micheal. I’ve become close to his mom, even though we met discovering his body, basically, the worst possible circumstance, but we’ve become pretty close. A lot of those people in that video, I’ve met after the fact of knowing him. At the funeral, people would be like, ‘yeah, Mike would tell me about the tour and the stuff you were working on.’ So I met a lot of people through him that I consider good friends.
And to be completely honest, I feel much more supported and at home and involved when I play a show in Minnesota than when I do here at home. I feel more like the outsider here. I feel like Minnesota is kind of an extended family, in some ways, so I wanted those people to be in the video. I didn’t want to go ‘Let me call these rappers that I know that people will want to see, that they’ll recognize.’ I didn’t want to call the Rhymesayers guys or whatever to be in the video. I wanted it to be Mike’s grandma, and godfather, and godson, and friends, and childhood influences. I wanted it to be personal. There’s a couple people they’ll recognize, like Joe Horton or Kristoff or Carnage, but it’s more of a real person thing than a musician thing.
The sign thing was my idea. I talked to Kathy, and I was like, I’d like to get everybody together, the few people I want in that I feel like I’ve made relationships with through Mike, and then the people you want involved in this video as well, that Kathy knows on a better level. So we all met up at Mike’s grandmother’s house, and there was a bonfire, and I basically passed those sheets out and just told people to write a word or two that makes them think of Mike. And I just left it really broad. Because, knowing him, that’s how I think he would want it. People who had never rapped, he would get them to freestyle. You know, you see videos of him rapping with little kids and stuff, and just getting excited seeing their reactions and seeing people’s creativity, so I thought it’d be cool to just see what people came up with.
What should fans know about Kathy’s fundraiser?
I know Kathy puts a lot of effort and a lot money towards things like this, trying to keep his legacy alive and keep people interested in the things that Mike was interested in. So I wanted to release this video at a time, for her, that could hopefully garner a little bit of money. I want to put a PayPal link for people to donate if they feel inclined to. She basically pays for these things out of pocket. And this is not a song I want to make money off of, that’s the last thing I care about with this song.