Eyedea & Abilities
Wed Oct 20
Aladdin Theater
3017 SE Milwaukie

The present importance of underground hiphop roughly corresponds with the importance of alternative rock in the late '80s. Both are responses to the same types of musical developments and forms of exploitation. Established in 1997 with the end of Wu Tang Clan's dynasty and the rises of Rawkus Records in New York (Mos Def, Talib Kweli) and Stone Throw Records in LA (Madlib, Loot Pack), the underground rejected the major labels because the major labels rejected anything that reeked of risk. Corporate hiphop now had a formula for generating profits: Keep the raps dirty, make the music bump, and always maintain the rapper's realness (meaning regular run-ins with the law). The situation was suffocating.

At the start of the new millennium, four cities became the centers for the underground revolution, one of which was, surprisingly, Minneapolis, whose label Rhymesayers housed a rap star (Atmosphere), and hiphop professionals Eyedea & Abilities. Eyedea & Abilities are professionals because they established their reputations the oldskool way: in battle championships--Eyedea on the mic, Abilities on the turntables. Their debut CD, First Born, was good, but it failed to capture the energy of their live performances. It was intelligent but almost soulless. Their follow-up, E & A, released this summer, resolved the problems of the debut. On E & A, Eyedea's raps remained intelligent but without collapsing the structure of the groove. You can dance to the record.

Despite the gains made on E&A, which points directly to a future record that will become the duo's masterpiece, it is on the stage that MC Eyedea and DJ Abilities make their strongest and most satisfying impression. Eyedea is a brilliant freestyler, pulling complex rhymes seemingly out of the air, while Abilities exerts an extraordinary amount of control over his cuts and mixes. His mastery is the consequence of what DJ Premier once called "deep concentration." Even if you don't own the record, this is a show you should check out.