E & A

Artist: Eyedea & AbilitiesTitle: E & ARating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: N. Context

What do you get when you bring together an accomplished battle emcee (winner of the 99 Scribble MC Battle, the Rocksteady MC Battle and HBO World Blaze Battle of 2000) and a skilled turntabalist (two time DMC Regional champion)? You get an underground duo amassed with talent, creativity and an undeniable B-Boy swagger: a.k.a. Eyedea and Abilities. With their second album, E&A, Eyedea and Abilities incorporate live show themes to put the DJ and Emcee on the same level.

The intro, “Reintroducing”, prepares the listener for the “sparring” that is to occur between Eyedea on the mic and Abilities on the tables that you normally only get at a concert by having Abilities cut up parts of Eyedea’s verse seemingly as he spits it. They take it a step further on “One Twenty” where they start with Eyedea rhyming to Abilities and Abilities answering by scratching up samples. (IE- “Hey DJ Abilities whatchu gonna do? (scratched) about to rock. Add me to the mix and you have E&A crew and we (scratched) blow up the spot…”) They also add a call and response between Eyedea’s rhymes and Abilities scratches a la the Root’s sound check while giving the chorus to Abilities to showcase his skills. “Now” stands out as the best or most equal blend of Emceeing, DJing and production. Eyedea varies his cadence and flow speed to go along with, and sometimes inducing, beat breaks and the increased tempo and added accompaniment. Abilities cuts are precise and add to the track as if it were another instrument.

The biggest problem with this album is the production. I’m still at a crossroad of whether it’s because Abilities needs more time to hone his skill or if they were deliberately going for basic beats (drum track and a couple of samples with relatively no breaks) with a circa 89-92 feel. At first listen the production leaves much to be desired, but after giving the album a hard listen for the 10th time it became evident that the simpler beats provide a platform for Eyedea to play off one another. When they created more “conceptual” songs,(IE- “Exhausted Love” and “Glass”) the production had more depth and structure. While it is clear that they wanted to (and did) bring the DJ back to the forefront they’ll need a little more work to get this style the mass appeal it deserves.