In the indie rap world, Michael “Eyedea” Larsen was seen by some as the underground Eminem. The talented Midwestern rapper and turntablist, who recorded under the name Eyedea for the Rhymesayers label, died suddenly over the weekend at his St. Paul, Minnesota, home at age 28.
His mother announced Larsen’s passing — a cause of death was not given at press time — writing on the MC’s Facebook page, “It is with great pain and sadness that I tell you my son Mikey (Eyedea) has passed away … At this time we kindly request your respect and our privacy as we process this devastating loss. We do, however, welcome your kind words, memories, and positive thoughts.” The family has set up a PayPal account for donations to pay for the cost of funeral services.
Known for his rapid-fire delivery and freestyle skills, like Eminem, Larsen cut his teeth by impressing fellow hip-hop heads in lyrical battles while still in his teens. He took the top prize at 1999’s Scribble Jam in Cincinnati and went on to win 2000’s Blaze Battle in Chicago as well, releasing his debut album, First Born, in 2001 in collaboration with his longtime musical partner DJ Abilities. Together they were known as Eyedea and Abilities and recorded for the hometown Rhymesayers record label, home to such fellow underground faves as Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Grayskul, Mr. Dibbs and Slug.
The duo often collaborated with their Rhymesayers brethren, recording songs with Atmosphere as well as other like-minded acts like Aesop Rock, Sage Francis and Blueprint. For 2006’s This Is Where We Were, released on his own Face Candy label, Larsen was backed by a live jazz group of the same name, recorded during a four-year hiatus from releasing Eyedea and Abilities music.
The duo returned, however, in late 2007 for a tour and again in 2009 as part of the Rock the Bells outing. The pair issued their final joint album, By the Throat, last year. His mom said Larsen had finished a new Face Candy album before his death, as well as a book of poetry, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. An autopsy is planned to determine the cause of death.
Larsen was reportedly in good spirits on Friday night when he hung out at Minneapolis’ First Avenue & 7th Street Entry to watch a show featuring Abilities and L.A. rapper Pigeon John.