Battle tested

Eyedea & Abilities
Battle tested

By Gilbert Garcia

In a way, it's fitting that the St. Paul, Minnesota, underground hip-hop duo known as Eyedea & Abilities cut their teeth on the hip-hop battle circuit. Four years after MC Eyedea won the HBO-televised Blaze Battle, he's still at war with his contemporary hip-hop peers, albeit not in the superficial way that MCs conventionally engage in verbal warfare.

Eyedea despises the mindless sexism and ego-glorification of mass-market hip-hop and he doesn't shy away from making it a subject of his songs. On the duo's new Epitaph CD E&A - a sterling followup to their 2001 debut, First Born - he dismisses such material as nothing more than "candy-coated, condom-flavored karaoke cover songs."

Eyedea & Abilities
Blueprint, Los Nativos Grayskull, Dj Donnie-D, Scuba Gooding Sr.

Thursday, April 29
Sin 13
1902 McCullough

Eyedea likes to call DJ Abilities "the Jimmy Page to my Robert Plant," and it neatly sums up this creative relationship. With Abilities exploring the chordal possibilities of be-bop and the textures of modern rock, Eyedea boldly uses his voice as a rhythmic device. They're part of an artsy hip-hop alternative that has emerged in recent years to reclaim the music's roots and challenge the mercenary, bling-obsessed slant of what passes for hip-hop on the airwaves.

It's easy to understand why Eyedea & Abilities rave about Radiohead and OutKast with equal fervor. Both groups restlessly seek innovation at all times, reluctant to repeat any past achievements. Two albums into what should be a long career, the same can be said for Eyedea & Abilities. •

By Gilbert Garcia

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