I’ve reviewed all of E&A album’s previously on TSW, so I decided to re-post all of them here in one post. So enjoy!
First Born (1999)
I consider this to be one of the essential indie, abstract hip hop albums, combing complex and intelligent lyrics with strange, yet very simple beats, but also there are couple of “basic” hip hop tracks as well. It’s one of the finest indie rap albums of all time and in my opinion, Eyedea & Abilities’ second best
If you have never read one of my album review, it goes similar to my film review: Lyrics/Flow/Rappers performance, Beats/Production and overall.
As some of you know, I consider Eyedea aka Michael Larsen to be one of the greatest MC’s ever, his flow is perfect in almost every song, his themes and topics are mind-blowingly beautiful and complex written and he could also make pretty solid beats. Also he was probably the best battle rapper ever, winning two major tournaments before retiring. He wrote the lyrics to these songs when he was about 16 which is absolutely ridiculous considering I’m 17 and I could never write such detailed and complex lyrics even if my life depended on it. Lyrics like “I bleed the blood of a cold stone that roams without a shadow
I’m only deep enough to realize that I’m shallow” leaves me breathless. His rhymes are always clever and well written, especially on songs like Big Shots and On This I Stand. The themes are vast from paranoia and delusion (The Dive part 1/2) to Plato’s philosophy (Color My World Mine) to the nature of music (Music Music) and even to the realization that he’s a judgemental asshole (Big Shots). He displays his vast knowledge in philosophy by telling stories and using a lot of metaphors, in his later career he abandoned the story telling, but kept using metaphors and creating very striking visual imagines. Most importantly, Eyedea showed just how great of a story teller he was, especially on heart breaking songs like A Murder of Memories (which is about a traumatized soldier, trying to live his life, trying to forget the horror) and Read Wiped In Blue (which on the surface is about a boys mother dying, but is actually a political song about America’s foreign affairs, but it’s heartbreaking nontheless). Most of the stories and surreal and full of metaphors which most are so complex I can’t even begin to understand, like Birth of a Fish, …Powdered Water Too (part 1 and 2) and Void (1 & 2).
His flow is on point like always, though his voice on some songs sounds a little dirty, like he would still be a teenager. But it doesn’t really matter, his flow is still great. Eyedea was known to rap very fast and he was excellent in doing so, but on this album his flow is slower and more calculated and it really helps building the already surreal atmosphere. The most famous song (it’s famous because it was on some Tony Hawk video game) is of course, Big Shots. A song about doucebags, each verse being about a different douchebag, the first one being about a cocktease of a girl who only uses boys to boost her own ego and probably just wants your money, the second being about a cliche football captain, who of course is a vain asshole and the last one about a self-boasting rapper, and it has a pretty funny twist at the end. The song is wonderful, it’s very old school hip hop in it’s production and Eyedea’s flow is faster than on most of the songs and he delivers the verses with a lot of confidence and personality. My favorite track on the album is probably The Dive part 2, it’s about paranoia and trying to survive in a world full of idiots who don’t understand you. The beat on the song is so beautiful and Eyedea’s story-telling is just so on point I can’t help to love the song. Also Color My World Mine is so strange, surreal and haunting.
There are differing sources on who made the beats, some claiming it was Eyeadea, and it was only produced by Abilities and some that is was Abilities who made the beats. Because I don’t care who made them, I’m just going to say that it was Abilities, as he did make the beats for the rest of their albums.
The lyrics are surreal so it’s no surprise that the beats would also be strange, out-of-the-ordinary and surreal as hell. In a lot ways, they are very simple and basic, the beats being a simple drum beat, but the instrumentals are so colorful and filled with unusual sounds and effects that it creates this bizarre and wonderful atmosphere, which really help to build the stories. On the song Big Shots, the beat is probably the most simple, it’s a basic drum and bass beat which works as it is meant to be a “classical” rap anthem. On something like Color My World Mine, the production gets really strange, opening something which sounds like mixing dogs barking and banging drumsticks to a teapot. In Dive part 2, the background voices are mixed so well, it sounds like they sampled some soul songs or something, whatever it is it works. Abilities creates a world with his use of sounds, it’s a very dream-like, opened world, often surreal and haunting, even uncomfortable, but it works with the lyrics so well. The beats are simple, yet so unique.
The album is a masterpiece of abstract, indie hip hop. Even abstract rappers like Aesop Rock or Eyenine, cannot even come close with Eyedea’s level of knowledge and beauty. E&A may be more fun and entertaining, By The Throat may be more personal and beautiful, but First Born is the most intellectual of their discography. It’s their second best album in my opinion, showcasing their ability to create colorful, unique stories and worlds.
It’s 5/5 from me.