REVIEW: Eyedea & Abilities – First Born

First Born

Artist: Eyedea & Abilities

Album: First Born

Label: Rhymesayers Entertainment

Rating: 8 / 10

Reviewer: B Dids

Expectations can really mess you up sometimes. You get an idea of how a person is in your head, and when they don €™t conform to that notion- you tend to think they €™re doing something wrong. Musically that €™s even easier. Artists get pigeonholed; there are 15 different sub-genres for every form of music (I still wince thinking about my ex-coworker – who described her husband €™s band as €œmath/emo rock €), music heads are silly that way.

I knew Eyedea from tracks like ‘Monster Inside Me’ and ‘Pushing Buttons.’ He €™s a battle MC (won a Blaze battle thingy if you care about things like that – which I don €™t, but it may impress some). A wacky cat who came from outer space (if you haven €™t heard his verse on ‘Savior’ with Slug, Sole, and other folks – go hunt that down – it €™s bonkers). Clever, irreverent, and capable of ripping anybody at any time.

This is not a battle album. On the first few listens that kinda vexed me. (Please note – the first time I listened to this I was working out – and when my fat ass is flailing about on the elliptical machine, the last thing I need is a slow paced song that €™s all meaningful and shit – it €™s really more of a ‘Ante-U’ remix moment). I wanted to hear fools get ripped, clever disses, ill punch lines. There €™s not a lot of that here. €œFirst Born € is a more €œmature € album than the other material I €™ve heard from Eyedea and Abilities (mind you – mature is not always a good thing – shit, maturity ruined Common €™s career). The irreverence that I found so charming has been replaced with introspection. While that isn €™t as cute, it can be equally appealing. €œFirst Born € feels like an album from somebody who €™s grown up a little – and has more to say than simply pointing out to the world how dope he is.

So with that in mind, and trying to judge Eyedea in the terms of what he is, not what I perceive him to be, how €™s he doing? (and Oh Yeah – there €™s that other guy too – DJ Abilities – he €™s damn nice, but we knew that, he €™s still damn nice here). In short, pretty damn good. Eyedea may not battle any more, but the quality of his lyrics hasn €™t dropped off a bit. The prevailing message I gather up from the album was simply- €œquestion what €™s around you – think outside the box, live outside the box.2 ‘Birth of a Fish’, ‘Powdered Water Too (parts 1 and 2)’, ‘Color My World Mine’ all touch on the topic. Which isn €™t terribly different from the Eyedea V1.0 – that rapped about being born to aliens. Same ideas just filled out with a little more real world application. It €™s that damned maturity : creeping up and making some very dope songs.

Of course, amid all this talk of happy songs about people who were born in cubicles (‘Powdered Water Too – Part 1’) and turned into fish (‘Birth of a Fish’) and what not, the best damn song on the album is ‘Big Shots’, which is the closest thing to a battle track this record has (not counting the €œbonus track €). First it gets points for flipping the baseline to ‘Freaks of the Industry’ and not sounding dumb or cliché. Second it €™s got Eyedea just going insane. Third, it benefits from a faster paced beat.

My biggest criticism of this album is that there are a few too many slow tempo joints on it, although in addtition

A – Eyedea €™s voice (oh yeah- he €™s got a corny voice. If that bothers you, you should get a grip – the only voice in hip-hop worth dissing is Magoo €™s and that €™s not because it €™s lame, it €™s because it isn €™t his) has this sing-song quality, which sounds a lot better over a faster paced track. br>
B – The album gets a little monotonous, as the tempo never really changes that dramatically. However, that does allow you to focus on the lyrics, which is something you €™ll need to do. Like Aesop Rock, or Cannibal Ox – this isn €™t music that you can digest if you €™re only listening to it with half your ass.

The production on the album is pretty average. Abilities is a very talented DJ, and he €™s given a few tracks to show off with (‘DJ Abilities’- yeah, that €™s the name of the track – the first track is called ‘One’- inventive!!). None of the beats are horrible, but only a couple (‘Big Shots’, ‘One’, ‘The Drive Part 2’) really jumped out at me. They do all compliment Eyedea reasonably though, which is really all that was needed.

So in the end €œFirst Born € is a solid piece of work. It €™s important to judge it on it €™s own merits, and not based on your expectations of the folks involved with it. Eyedea and Abilities might be battle champions, but that €™s not the point here. The point is that they made a damn good album on their terms.

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