A great hip hop show can be measured by two things. One is the artist's ability to captivate and command an audience from something as simple as jumping around to the time honored call-and-response. The second thing goes along with that as it is the energy between performer and audience as both participants feed off each other's. Minneapolis duo Eyedea & Abilities, along with their guests, had the audience moving, jumping and responding to each line from both the stage and on the floor.
In support of the recently released By the Throat, Eyedea & Abilities wasted very little time jumping into the newer material. Opening numbers "Hay Fever" and the punkish "Factory" pumped up the audience as Eyedea headed into the audience to perform the numbers. The crowd bobbed their heads, chanted lyrics back at him and jumped around alongside the MC. These tracks were followed by fellow album cuts "Time Flies When You Have A Gun" and "Spin Cycle" which were met with enthusiasm from Eyedea who bounced around the stage while showcasing his abilities as both a performer and a rapper.
Seven of the album's cuts blended seamlessly between tracks from their previous two albums, 2002's First Born and 2005's E & A, thanks in part to Abilities' turntable dynamic. His, and no pun intended, abilities as a DJ is in a league of its own among modern DJs and rightfully belongs in rankings of such legends as DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Premier and Grandmaster Flash. Mid-set, he took a moment to show his championship winning skills as Eyedea danced around the stage either alone or with opener, Psalm One.
It is his skill and precision as a DJ along with Eyedea's lyrical and verbal prowess that make them a very engaging duo in the studio. Live, however, it is these things in addition to their ability to integrate the audience into their show help make them one of the most energetic live hip hop groups around. By the time they arrived at the set closer, "Now," the audience had followed, chanted and danced to almost to every word and Eyedea & Abilities had just as much fun getting there by thanking crowd and their openers as well as telling stories and jokes between the numbers.
Openers Educated Consumers, Psalm One and Kristoff Krane did their parts in warming up the crowd by providing some very enjoyable sets. D.C. duo Educated Consumers made the most of their 25-minute set by combining some slightly laid back beats incorporating a 90's non-gangsta rap, West Coast vibe with that of today's indie hip hop scene with a bouncy rhyme delivery, Kaki King references and a song that weaved a sped up sample of Steely Dan's "Do It Again" into its second half. As they crowd got more into their short set, the duo's rapper, Seez, eventually gave himself to them by performing half of the set's closing number in the middle of the masses of bodies circled around him which became a standard for the night and far from a boring one at that.
Local artist Psalm One proved to be one of the best female rappers around during her 30-minute set. Her voice is very similar to Lauryn Hill's but with a bolder, stronger presence. Backed by her DJ/hypewoman, Fluffy, Psalm One is a very engaging and intelligent performer who could be respected whether you are a fan of hip hop or indie rock. The proof of that came when she dished out her rhymes over a beat that sampled Spoon's "I Turn My Camera On." as well as having a dance battle with Fluffy. She is a emcee that one should, by all means, catch if she is in your town.
Kristoff Krane started off his performance with technical problems as his microphone was not working and his beats were not coming through the p.a. Later on, he had microphone stand problems as well. When everything was working, however, Krane was a one man band programming his beats, rhyming and playing guitar. He even took the time to pull up an audience member onto the stage to beatbox over a freestyle to which he did not even have a microphone to rhyme with since he gave it to the beatboxer. Nevertheless, Krane proved to be one of the most versatile performers of the night.
The night culminated with Eyedea & Abilities bringing out all of their guests for a freestyle encore. They like, the audience, came together and had fun which best sums up the night. It was a night of great beats and rhymes and enjoyable performances. In a genre where artists attempt to be entertaining by being flashy, creating uninspired dance moves or sounding like robots, it was refreshing just to see people just enjoy what they do best and on top of that, have an audience going crazy after each of your songs.