28.6.11

Just Another Weirdo


Update 2015: For fans who'd like to know more about Michael, a tribute website has been created that reveals more of his history and how he developed his work from childhood.

As I was watching a video of someone stopping people on the street in Melbourne to ask them what they were listening to on their ipods, I caught a snippet of some amazingly clever and striking lyrics in the background. I started repeating them in my head, then rewound the clip to see if I could catch the name of the song, but no luck. I popped them into google and came up with Eyedea and Abilities, and in the following weeks I was addicted to all of their albums and sought out Eyedea's collaborations wherever I could. After a bit of googling it was clear he was already extremely well respected in the underground battle rap scene. He found fame early at the Scribble Jam in ’99, as well as HBO’s Blaze Battle in 2000. The 2009 album,  By The Throat was meant to propel Eyedea and Abilities into the mainstream and it nearly succeeded. 

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The innovative arrangements of rap with distorted electronica and heavy industrial sound really left little doubt I had found something rare and special. Some of the lyrics reminded me of early Atmosphere (e.g, here, here and here) in how smoothly he was running rings around the English language. Brilliant I thought, I'm looking forward to seeing how they evolve and I'll keep an eye out for their next Australian tour. Based on the current discography; By The Throat, E&A and First Born - the future of this duo looked better than promising, it was game changing. 

Then a day later as I read the comments beneath the video for Smile (posted below) I found out that Eyedea: AKA Michael Larsen, had died of an accidental drug overdose on October 16, 2010. So I had been listening to the music of a ghost. Not since learning about the death of Freddy Mercury have I been so overwhelmed with tears. And I wasn't alone, comment after comment echoed my disbelief that he was gone and how profoundly his work has influenced and affected his fans on so many levels.

Eyedea and Abilities songs, specifically Michael Larsen's lyrics, thoroughly blew me away from the beginning on almost every track. Even more than Atmosphere, he managed to pick at the most sensitive parts of what it means to be human and sharply throw our most glaring flaws into the light. Even when he's tearing the human race to pieces as little better than apes, driven by greed and testosterone, you don't come away from listening feeling cynical. For a lot of musicians it's just too easy for to play the angst, anarchistic, or "shit is fucked up" card and drop the ball there. Michael didn't do that. The diversity of the content in his work expressed - with a lot of grace - all of the best parts of who we are, and reinforced the necessity to face the hypocrisy, apathy and metaphysical discomfort that everyone struggles with. He advocated embracing the darkest parts of ourselves as the first step in moving forward towards peace and initiating social change. His poetry echoes Carl Jung's shadow self, eastern enlightenment, matrix philosophy, social angst and activism, straight through to traditional hip-hop trash talk and just plain love of music. A master writer with an amazing sense of wit, comedy, self-awareness, cynicism and irony - he was a prodigy that had no where near peaked.

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It's still painful when I listen to his music to have to remind myself that he's not about to release a new album, that we won't ever know how his talent would have matured, but we can still thoroughly enjoy all he managed to create while he was here. For his age he was prolific - and a lot of it is so far beyond what most of us define as rap or hip hop that it's likely to take a long time for his brilliance and contribution to be fully appreciated. He was on another level as an complete alternative to the predominant cultural success of 50 Cent, Nelly, Kanye or Jay-Z. Thankfully despite his absence, the tide is still turning with acts  Rhymesayers (founded by Sean Daly of Atmosphere), Doomtree (see P.O.S ) Astronautalis and Flobots.

In one of his side projects under the pseudonym of Oliver Hart wrote:

"I swear someday I'm gonna be somebody's hero, but until that day I'm just another fuckin' weirdo"

Being a weirdo and a hero certainly aren't mutually exclusive. He can still be a mentor and inspiration for any kid who discovers him as they're working at becoming a poet or an MC. The thing is making sure they find their way to his work. Had I not picked that song out of the Melbourne video (of all the strange and voyeuristic ways to stumble into new music)  I may never have heard of Eyedea and Abilities - and I'll always be grateful for that bit of synchronicity. So listen and share, and share some more. Let's grant him as much immortality as we can.

To be an angel, you gotta earn your wings
To control your own, you gotta burn your strings
To hit blackjack, you gotta turn a king
But to live forever, all you gotta do is learn to sing
I get a pleasure that's inevitably immeasurable
And I won't let it be rejected by no man
Why does it have to be so damn difficult
To live in the frame of a game that will slit your throat?
But I've dug in the mud in search of the drum
Dove soul first to bathe nude in its abyss
Stayed true to the music, now my favorite thing to do is
Close my eyes and forget that I even exist
I hold this fistful of degenerate ideas
For every genius that was murdered in the name of Jesus
Still deaf to the bells that claimed to free us
But I pay homage to my melody ‘cause she's the sweetest
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
See, I can look at a painting and admire the colors
Or appreciate any type of art that I discover
But what I dig's invisible
It's my teacher and I'm its student
I tell ya
Ain't nothing quite as beautiful as Music 


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

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