Eyedea & Abilities on new record: 'People are gonna hate'

Categories: Concert Review

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IMAGES BY TONY NELSON

"I think a lot of people are gonna hate on this," says DJ Abilities, referring to the new untitled album he and lyrical "miracle" counterpart Eyedea recently finished recording. As we walked up Eyedea's driveway last Thursday night, there was a clear excitement in Abilities' voice when speaking of the group's long awaited third album, despite the foreshadowing of potential fan haterade: He expressed that some of E&A's more rap centered fans might be a little put off by the way their sound has developed. But, at the same time, he thinks there "will be an entirely new crop of 16 year olds who'll say 'These are my guys,' after hearing this."

The potential for said crop of new fans to sprout is stronger than ever. The two have been building momentum separately for the past few years, with Eyedea acting as front man for both Carbon Carousel as well as the improv-based jazz-rap hybrid Face Candy, and Abilities touring solo and as opener for groups like the Gym Class Heroes. Those experiences, coupled with the foundation the two have as a group, shaped this album and their recent "Appetite for Distraction" tour in a huge way.

"It's almost not a rap record," Abilities says as he leans in closer to the speakers during a personal listening party at Eyedea's St. Paul home.

"It's more like post math core if you ask me," Eyedea says jokingly.

Although the hip-hop basis for this album is obvious, the casual listener probably wouldn't infer that this is the work of two former battle champs, but that seems to be the point. The two have clearly come into their own with this effort, sounding more like a couple of adults who have found their sound and aim to make music based on their experiences and tastes, rather than a pair of brash youths out to prove that they're the best.

While 2003's "E&A" album combined thinking man's battle raps with boom-bap sensibility, their newest effort sounds like a gene splicing experiment between Alice In Chains, Thom Yorke, Aphex Twin, and GangStarr. Heavy guitar riffs and glitchy drum programming make way for punk rock choruses and deep lyrics, but that's not to say that the intricate pattern-based rhyming and insane scratch solos have fallen by the wayside. By the same token, their killer live performances hold the same intensity and energy as ever before, which was evidenced at the sold out E&A show that went down on last Friday night at the Turf Club in St. Paul.

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The Turf Club show featured Face Candy collaborator Kristoff Krane and his band Abzorbr, as well as former tour mates Sector 7G. However, it was abundantly clear from jump that this was E&A's crowd, and they did not hesitate to give the people what they wanted. This was also Eyedea & Abilities first show in their home city of St. Paul in a number of years, and as such, they were treated to a very warm welcome. Opening with fan favorite "Man vs. Ape" the packed house went into a frenzy as soon as the huge distorted bass line dropped, and the energy level only went up from there. The two then went back and forth between old and new, playing a number of selections from "First Born" and "E&A," including indie rap classics like "Now" and "Glass." There was even an impromptu listening party of some of the new material when alcohol and equipment woes got the best of the pair. The performance ended with a crazy freestyle session that included Kristoff Krane and members of Abzorbr, as well as beat box guru/lyrical beast Carnage. So, while there may be some jaded rap heads that feel betrayed by the evolving E&A sound, its pretty clear by the showing at the Turf Club that with most fans, they can do no wrong.

-- Dan Marcoulis

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