September 3, 2009

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Eyedea & Abilities, By the Throat
Rhymesayers Records, July 21

Conventional wisdom says hip-hop is dead, more accurately referring to the hip-hop that can’t seem to get out of its own bling-bling way or stop making non-fans hate its guts; the hip-hop that refuses, to its peril, to weld anything non-hip-hop to it. Meanwhile the underground thrives, thanks maybe not so much to long-faced Jazzy Jeff reanimators but to acts like this honky Minneapolis twosome. The shorthand is Eminem fronting early Melvins for a good half of this, which comes from MC Eyedea’s steel-trap cerebrum; the other good half is about DJ Abilities’s wild-card theatrics, throwing down some — I don’t know if it’s your daddy’s turntablism, but it’s uniquely crazed and crazy-musical, for example the whiz-bang jaw-dropper solo that closes “Spin Cycle” after some Strokes-ish nu-British too-good-to-be-garage-rock, in turn preceded by a breathless wordplay marathon encompassing literally every aspect of Everyman angst. In “Burn Fetish,” Eyedea flings the instantly appealing epithet “No wonder we lost the battle: the counterculture can’t count,” flagging the end of a common Jay-Z-generation piano loop and descent into knee-deep sludge-guitars that could have come from Sunn(((O)))’s Marshall stacks. Something’s dead out there, yeah, but these culture-cholos have iron-clad alibis. AE.W.S.