Local Wire

Eyedea & Abilities

This Minneapolis duo has been a team since their teens, when DJ Abilities left home, and Eyedea's mom put him up in their basement, where their partnership flourished. Eyedea began competing in battle rap competitions, taking top honors in the '99 Scribble Jam before he was 18, and winning the HBO-sponsored Blaze Battle a year later. For several years, he and Abilities supported Atmosphere. Eyedea played Slug's hype man, engaging in a lyrically heated onstage sibling rivalry. It was a valuable apprenticeship. With their '01 debut, First Born, Eyedea demonstrates there's more to his game than bravado, from the story of fractured childhood and parental bigotry ("Red Wiped in Blue") to the epistemological "Powdered Water Too," in which he raps, "We don't know the meal/We only know the menu that our brain tells us is real." Their '04 follow-up, E&A, finds Abilities stretching his skills, and providing some truly sublime beats and sweet scratches. The whole affair is more polished and nuanced, from Abilities' backdrops to Eyedea's increasingly philosophical raps. They've spent the intervening couple years working on side projects as well as some promised new material, though no album appears in the offing.