Ditmaal zijn we in gesprek met het duo Eyedea & Abilities dat diezelfde avond moest optreden in de Melkweg. Deze heren van het Rhymesayers label waren hier om hun nieuwe album E and A te promoten. Check hier de verschillende opvattingen van deze eigenzinnige muzikanten over muziek, hiphop en… battles!
So you guys were in Rotterdam last week and now in Amsterdam, do you like it here in Holland?
E – Yeah, it’s our first time here, the show in Rotterdam was at a festival, we surely had fun, but tonight I think it’s gonna be the night.
How’s the crowd compared to the states, as far as size and the kind of reactions you get?
E – I think Paris was the best show of our life. Everybody being with us from the freestyles to the songs to the solos, just the whole thing. In the States we seem to have a bigger following. But for some reason over here there is a different type of understanding. It’s just that people here have just been more open to experimental music.
For the part of the Dutch crowd that doesn’t know you guys yet, could you introduce yourselves?
E – I’m the E part, I’m Eyedea haha., MC , we’re both inspiring musicians.
A – I’m the A part, I’m Abilities, DJ
How did you guys hookup? In Minneapolis?
E – Yeah, in the twin cities, Saint Paul, and we just grew up together.
Eyedea, you got a phenomenal freestyle battle past. When and why did you decide to actually stop competing in battles?
E – It was more for a natural thing for me, but there was a specific point for me when I thought I should never do this again, and that was when I lost a shitty local battle in Minneapolis. It was a dumb situation because, I was in there trying to prove my status, I feel like there are a few very influential battle mc’s and in my opinion I’m one of them. And there is just one basic style that everybody completely regressed to. And it’s basically I sit and make fun of you. And the kids who were winning those local battles were comedians but had no flow, they were not doing music. I thought like: “hey, I’m going in here trying to bring it back,” but it didn’t work. It didn’t come back. Haha. And that’s a perfect example of why I stopped cause it (battling, ed.) decided to stay where it’s at. And I’m going other places.
So no more battling for Eyedea, what about producing?
E – Yeah, I’m always working on new stuff. I did a solo record, it came out in 2002 or 2003 and was called “The Many Faces of Oliver Hart,” and it was completely produced by me. But I think in the future we’re gonna work more and do some more producing together, more of a free approach of how we make music as a group.
Eyedea, I read in the booklet of the album that you did the engineering part, do you have a background in engineering?
E – Nah, I just learned to do it myself. Anything we do is never like traditionally trained. Always just sitting in your basement and trying to make it happen.
Alright, the next one is for Abillities. Do you ever think about entering DMC battles?
A – No
Cause you can rip half of those people easily!
A – Uhm, I appreciate that, but now it’s more about making music. I had the drive once but when I didn’t win it hurt and I gave it up. But still, it was not wat I wanted to do, I wanted to make universal music. It started with producing and then I wanted to focus on the turntable as an instrument. Like someone would study the piano or something. And now I have new theories of manipulating sounds, while still staying true to the music. I just think outside the box. And here in Europe I’m really doing what I want with the scratching, it’s really melodic, just trying to be an real musician in a student way. Cause I never will be a master like Miles Davis. Basically the main reason I don’t battle anymore is because it’s limited and you can really live of making music, and that’s not limited.
E – A battle isn’t a song. It’s almost to say it isn’t music. It’s more of a sport. It’s like playing a sport. We are trying to make real music. Half of our shows are improvised.
Well still on the topic of battling, Is there still a battle that you can’t forget? Like the legendary Sage Francis Versus Brother Ali…
A – It’s funny that that battle matters now. Cause both of them have their careers and got well. Ha, that’s interesting.
E – To me the most interesting ones were the ones I was a part of. Watching it is never so exciting as doing it to me. The battle I did against P.E.A.C.E. from Freestyle Fellowship was one of my most magnificent. Cause I’m a big Freestyle Fellowship fan. But like the best overall battle is the JUICE vs. Supernatural battle. And the JUICE and Eminem battles were real exciting. But in the end all the stuff is overrated. Most of the rappers suck, bottom-line. There were a few years when it was really fucking lame dude.
A – Yeah it was, haha.
E – And it was like, this isn’t even entertaining the walls. You had to be completely drunk or stoned or something to find that entertaining. A good battle is to have them all laugh. Some classic stuff though is C-Rayz Walz and Rocksteady 2000. C is really underrated as a battle MC. He’s one of the best freestylers around. And he was just smashing, doing some amazing shit. That was really memorable to me. And then you had the really small funny stuff that goes on behind stage. Like the Blaze battles, cause we had KRS–ONE sittin’ there like hanging out with us. The Chicago one had Doug. E. Fresh hanging out. And Prodigy, hahahahaha.
How is the Rhymesayers-family doing?
E – Great man, everybody is putting stuff together. And we got new records coming from almost everybody this year.
Do you keep in touch with everybody every day?
E – Well, we’re all on tour, Atmosphere, Musab, Brother Ali, we are all really secure of our friendship. It’s not like we call everyday with “Man do you still like me?” hehe, cause we doing our shit for a decade or something, so we know what’s up.
Weren’t you guys thinking of releasing a compilation ? Def Jux has been doing it for a while, I think they just released volume 3.
A – Well u know, our type of artists aren’t really compilation artists, wich is funny ‘cause it all started out as Headshots on the tapes. And those were all compilations. But all the artists we have put on a compilation don’t seem to succeed. The Def Jux seems to work a little better. Compilation is also not so hot for me.
E – I feel like, us personally we’re focusing on our album. We just don’t even think of doing a compilation at this point. But what A said is funny, ‘cause that’s how it started. And it’s great ’cause the Def Jux Compilations are the best hiphop compilations out.
A – True, the Def Jux-compilations are more what Headshots was. Like: this is our crew. Rhymesayers isn’t even a crew, it is more of a label. You don’t see a lot of possecuts. Def Jux just collaborate more. Maybe one day, but I don’t think so.
How did you guys hook up with Epitaph?
A – You like that record? Cause they offered us a deal and we took it. Easy as that.
What are your feelings on your latest release, “E and A”, and how does it compare to “First Born”?
E – “First Born” makes us both wanna bomb it and the majority of the “E&A” record makes us both wanna bomb it. We don’t even touch “First Born” material live anymore.
A – Easily speaking, it is 9th grade compare to a Senior in High School. I could listen to First Born and listen to so many mistakes. So much shit I haven’t been able to change. But since we were never trained musically it was just about doing it and having fun. We liked it at that time. I was 18, Eyedea 16.
E – Yeah, very young.
A – But now, we’ve grown so much. Hopefully I can filll that gap every time. That would be pretty amazing. Back then we were searching.
E – Yeah, there was a lot of searching going on. But now as real artists we have to look at it and go. Nobody wants to do what you already did. At least, that’s the kind of person I am. And I think what we are doing now, what we are conceptualizing now, what we play now, defining the new E&A songs, they are even better than the “E&A” record.
A – Definitely, our live shows should have been our first record. If those would have been our debut record we would feel different now. But the point is; The live show is always the most refined version. Like every most recent show we do should be the best. That’s funny ‘cause in the rap and rock it’s not like that. It is mostly not as good live as it is on cd. Especially with rap shit. To me is it like, what is it. Is it even music? Or is it something else? And to me it’s music, I love fucking hiphop. But do you understand we’re I’m going? If you are really an MC you should be able to kill it live! And dope MCs are killing it live! And that the criterion of being a dope musician. MC, DJ whatever, cause if you are a dope producer, then stay at home.
E – Yeah exactly, ‘cause the bottom line is; if I’m better on cd than I am live, I suck. But if I am better a year ago when I recorded something than when I’m doing that same thing right now? That’s wrong.
A – If your career is based on technology and triggery and shit, then don’t try to perform. That’s just weird. Unless you can rock. Who in rap can outperform his cd? It’s the music you’re making. A cd is like a painting. It always sounds the same, a painting is always going to look the same. When you are performing live it’s living and breathing, it is actually you doing it and people seeing it and witnessing it. Some of the blues or jazz artists, I wish I’d remember his name, had the theory wich was going: “When music is recorded, it’s dead.”. Real musicians that I respect are better live. Cause it’s really them. They are really performing.
Alright, when you guys hook up to make a track, how does that work? Do you make the beat first?
A – With the previous stuff, that’s how it was. We were more traditional, like on a Gangstarr thing. But now it’s like we don’t care about that stuff at all. He is writing all kinds of melodies, we do it all together, hiring musicians, trying to get out of sampling.
As a DJ how do you think about everybody remaking Jay-Z’s Black Album?
A – What it really is is this: one, it’s overrated, and two, it shows a lack of accapellas out there. If there were more accapellas there wouldn’t be 28 Jay Z albums. If people released accapella albums people do it all the time it would be cool. Instead of 80 cause there’s only one accapella album out there. There is an element of DJing and that is to remix an whole album. I like the concept behind it. But I’m still not remixing another man’s stuff, haha.
E – Yeah that’s my thing. I’ve never been a big fan of remixing. I am never blown away by somebody’s remix. It’s just you getting away more and more from whatI think is really ill. But that’s not to say it’s wack. But I’m trying to be able to play instruments and do other things.
A – Basically to maintain this topic. Anybody who’s remixing another person’s album isn’t as relevant as Kurt Cobain is.
What do you think of DJs scratching with CDs? Does it kill the turntable thing?
A – I mean, it’s all about the end result. I don’t like it, I think it sounds good. I use one to play beats of or if I has to used it. But I never prefer to use it. And I don’t think any real DJs will like to use it. It just doesn’t feel good.
Is there anyone left you would like to work with?
E – It’s funny, every interview we get asked this question. And we answer the same answer. There are probably millions of people we would like to make music with. If it is anybody, it is to facilitate our vision. So it be like a bass player, a dope drummer, u know. And most of the people we know or are connected with aren’t big names. I’m never gonna be doing anything that isn’t completely helping my goal to become great.
One of our readers, asked me to ask this. You said Fort Collins was the greatest show you ever gave..
E – Until Paris.
Yeah, how do the European shows go?
E – Fort Collins was really fresh that time.
A – Really, there is no best show. Mostly the recent show is the best because we grow and perform and update shit, so our best show was probably Paris last night. Cause we expressed ourselves properly. It might be a special show but not the best.
How about an Orphanage album?
E – It will never happen. You’ve got 5 people with brilliant visions that go in 5 different directions. How are you gonna make it work?
A- It is just way too many rappers and you need a really good producer who can unify the vision and orchestrate it all. If there was infinite time it would be a dope ass project.
E – It surely has potential based on the talent, to be like a super record. It could almost never look up to that.
O yeah, you once were on tour with Sage and people said you showered two times during the whole thing.
E – Aaahhh, haha, we were on some shit, yeah sounds like me !
A – Naah, not that bad, he is a dirty dude but it ain’t twice.
E – See I can’t do that anymore, cause now when I play, I sweat so much it is impossible not to shower every night. But yeah back then, I was young, I was kicking it. Yeah. But I didn’t had the feeling I was dirty, haha.
Alright thanks for this conversation!
E – Yeah thank you.
A – No prob!