Eyedea and the Abilities – By The Throat

There are two striking things about Eyedea And The Abilities new album. The first is the CD’s front cover, which is simply a window and a bench in what appears to be a very small room, with paint-stained walls. However it’s what’s protruding out of the window that makes this cover so unique. What can only be described as a mass of every weapon conceivable, sticks through the window like a sore thumb and an explosion looks like a certain inevitability.

As artwork goes, this seems like an extreme way of telling your listeners the themes of your album, which the cover suggests are destruction, death and overall mayhem, but it is also a very clever way of grabbing attention from people who may otherwise pass your CD by and unfortunately, there are probably a lot of them.

The reason for most of the public’s ignorance towards the Minnesota duo is due to their lack of mainstream success. With no platinum-selling album under their belts or a big time producer guiding their way (ahem Eminem that goes to you), Eyedea & Abilities have gone unnoticed under many people’s music radar, especially here in the UK.

Again this is another example of how annoying the music industry can really be. With so called “Hip-Hop” acts such as Chipmunk and N-Dubz gaining the kind of attention that should surely be reserved for artists with talent, it seems an terrible injustice that Eyedea & Abilities haven’t be able to get even half of the recognition that the above have. However, just because they haven’t broken into the mainstream and don’t have women like Beyonce on their arm, does not mean they haven’t been successful in their own right.

Firstly, Eyedea And The Abilities are made up of two men: Eyedea, AKA Michael Larsen, who is the lyrist and MC and DJ Abilities who is the producer and DJ. Both men started out on the battle circuit and between them they have won the HBO Blaze Battle, Rocksteady, Scribble Jam and the DMC’s. The duo decided to form in the late nineties and since then they have pushed new boundaries and set the benchmark for any new Hip-Hop act in the underground world, alongside other influential figures in the scene such as Aesop Rock and Atmosphere, who they share a label with in the form of Rhymesayers. In 2007 there were rumours that the pair was to split but two years later they are back with brand new material and a whole host of new ideas.

“By The Throat” is the follow up to Eyedea & Abilities critically acclaimed 2004 album “E & A” and what a genre-bending album it is. Just like its predecessor, “By The Throat” is not just a normal Hip-Hop album, with the music being just as striking as the artwork that covers the CD sleeve. Mixing Hip-Hop beats, complex turntable skills, snappy guitars and melodic rhythms, Eyedea & Abilities have managed to create an album that defies the conventional Hip-Hop stereotypes.

An example of the completely random musical arrangement that is “By The Throat” is song ‘This Story.’ Starting off with Tom Morello-esque guitars, the song then becomes a track that is sometimes calm but always with heavy baseline undertone, whilst Eyedea MC’s above it all, before the starting tones of the fuzzy guitar in the style of the RATM guitarist, see the song out. Another outstanding track on “By The Throat” is ‘Spin Cycle.’ Indie guitar beats slide over the backdrop of complex DJ work on DJ Abilities behalf, whilst Eyedea shows us not just his MC skills but his singing voice aswell.

‘Junk’ is one of the grimiest songs on the album that enforces a more Hip-Hop tone whilst the guitars bite through the music, like a shark at a surfboard and DJ Abilities spins the deck like a world class pro. A more calm, almost peaceful track is ‘Sky Diver’ which is just one of the songs that introduces keyboards into the mix and the track makes you feel like you are almost floating, albeit whilst drums bash and beat all around you.

‘Smile,’ ‘Factory,’ ‘Hay Fever’ and ‘Burn Fetish’ are all very good tracks that continue too not just push the musical boundaries of “By The Throat,” but smash them down with a giant hammer. However,  some tracks such as ‘By The Throat’ and ‘Forgive Me For My Synapses,’ are a bit disappointing especially considering that the majority of the albums material is nothing short of brilliant and they serve no more than the purpose of being track fillers.

Lyrically, “By The Throat” also pushes boundaries. With running themes of violence, death, addiction and overall discontent, “By The Throat” tackles the current issues that plagues our everyday lives with a raw edge and emotion, not often seen in today’s Hip-Hop world. Eyedea’s lyrical wordplay is on top form throughout the record and with “Let’s all go home kill ourselves and our radios” being the second line of the opening track ‘Hay Fever’ and the title of the album being “By The Throat,” Eyedea & Abilities third album states its lyrical intention; to stimulate brain cells from the start and continue to do so until the very end.

Eyedea & Abilities have created yet another brilliant and lyrically important album. “By The Throat” is certainly rockier than their previous efforts but it still manages to maintain the grit and raw edge that Eyedea & Abilities brand of Hip-Hop is so renowned for. A compelling, inspiring and most of all entertaining album, “By The Throat” will take you not only be the throat, but by your entire body aswell.

If you want Hip-Hop about fast cars, bitches and bling, “By The Throat” is definitely not the album for you. If you want a real Hip-Hop album however, “By The Throat” should without a doubt be your next purchase.

Original article first appeared on Altsounds website on 27/11/09