photo by Ben LaFond

Yesterday afternoon, we were crushed with the news of the sudden passing of Micheal Larsen, better known as rapper Eyedea. The news stung hard, not only as we lost a remarkably talented young man, but as we lost a friend and longtime member of our community.

I first met Mikey in 1998 when he and Abilities came to St. Louis to perform with Atmosphere and a few other Minneapolis acts at a festival near my apartment. He was only 16 years old at the time but showed more genuine passion, hunger, and talent than just about any other rapper I'd seen at that point, twice his age or beyond. At one point during the day, Eyedea, Slug, and Felipé and Bilam (of Minneapolis group Los Nativos) came to my apartment and we filled up at least one side of a blank cassette with them rapping and me DJing. The results were far from listenable, but I doubt I'll ever be a part of anything like that again. You could hear in his voice how much he loved what he did. From that moment on, I knew Eyedea was destined for great things.

a flyer for a show I DJed with my brother, rapper Deerflesh, opening up for Eyedea & Abilities in St. Louis. It was the best show we ever played.

Two years later and Eyedea's racking up rap battle wins left and right, taking out big name cats like Pack FM and P.E.A.C.E. In the Fall of 2000, he cemented his name in the freestyle hall of fame when he won the Blaze Battle on HBO by more than a landslide. His energetic persona, enormous sense of humor and creative vision, and lightning quick wit went on to inspire dozens of great rappers and hundreds of horrible ones, but it was never a debate that this 18 year old kid was a phenomenon.

Burlesque would design a handful of album covers and posters for Eyedea & Abilities, always following their direction to do something wild.

In 2003, I moved to Minneapolis to begin working with Burlesque. In this time, I got to know Mikey better. With the same charisma he had on stage, he was always equally excited to be around his friends. He loved music and was always animated when he talked about whatever new band, gig, or project he was working on at the moment. To say he was full of life would be a huge understatement. Mikey left this world too soon but left behind him a gift of music and inspiration. We will miss his creativity and his showmanship, but more than anything we will miss our friend.

Life can be a lot shorter than we expect. Try to do something constructive with your short time here and be sure to let the people in your life know you love them.