“The Man Behind the Eyedea”

Last night I dreamt I was sitting with Mikey on a public park bench somewhere. I interrupted him as he was talking to me and said,”You know…people think you’re dead.” A flood of sorrow overtook me. I broke down into tears and said, “I thought you were dead.” I patted him on the back to make sure he was really there. He grinned mischievously but there was also a look of shame–as if to admit that he felt bad for pulling this horrible prank on everybody. He stood up, stepped into a bear costume, and then pressed play on a boombox set to slow-motion which made it sound like a bear growl. When I awoke it took a good 30 seconds before I realized that my sense of relief was a hoax of my mind’s own doing. This is the fourth day in a row that I’ve had to remind myself that Mikey is gone.

People will undoubtedly remember his music but Micheal Larsen was more than the sum of his songs, battles, performances and freestyles. When you consider the depth of the well that these things were all drawn from it almost seems trivial to focus on the byproducts of his fire. It was a fire that kept him seeking, learning, thinking and evolving. A fire that I believe he did his best to understand so he could share it with others. Maybe that fire burned him out. Maybe it didn’t. Maybe that fire is what kept him alive in the first place. Regrettably, I was not in close contact with him in the last few years so all I can do is cling onto memories of the better times we shared together. Before doing so I need to make it clear that I am by no means an authority on the man. Mikey’s friends, family and music partners in his home state of Minnesota obviously have a greater understanding of him as a person and as an artist. I don’t think there’s anything I can say about him that they won’t or haven’t already. In the past five days it has helped me to put all these thoughts into words rather than letting my memory wheel spin out of control.

I first became aware of Eyedea, the emcee, in 1999. He was touted as an absolute protégé among my inner-circle of friends. He didn’t have a release of his own yet but he had appearances on various music compilations. These were recordings of his at the age of 17 or younger. Part of my own identity and pride at this time was based on how much progress I had made as an emcee at a young age but this Eyedea fella essentially squashed all of that. The voice and message in his recordings sounded so mature. I suppose “precocious” could be a good word to describe him but I think I’ll just have to fall back on an overused cliche and say that he was “ahead of his time;” artistically and intellectually.

The next big sign of his impending rise came when he won the 1999 Scribble Jam MC Battle, and that was after he had already won NYC’s Rocksteady battle. These victories put him on a lot of people’s radar and, thankfully, this was during a time when winning a battle could raise a rapper’s cache and notability. This is the same year I won the Superbowl Battle, to much less acclaim, but that’s how Mikey originally discovered who I was. I just didn’t know it yet. At some point in 2000 I performed at a club in Milwaukee on the same bill as Atmosphere which, as a live outfit, consisted of Slug on the mic & DJ Abilities on the turntables. We hit it off and became good acquaintances at that show. I was then graciously invited to be part of their upcoming mini-tour. Eyedea & Abilities performed along with Slug during the Atmosphere set so this is when I first met Eyedea.

To be quite honest, I don’t remember my very first interaction with him. I’m sure it was something along the lines of him saying, “Hey Sage, it’s a pleasure for you to meet me. No really, it is.” Or something overtly arrogant like that. Whether he laughed at his own jokes or delivered them straight faced, there was usually a frenetic energy about him that insisted upon everyone having a good time. That is until the conversation veered into deeper matters at which point his tone transformed into one of the the world weary philosopher. Those moments were good ones and they felt special but mainly his social style consisted of playful jabs, self-congratulatory hyperbole, and funny jokes or stories.

Eyedea, Slug, Mr. Dibbs, Sage Francis

I remember being at Eyedea’s house during some part of the tour. His mother’s house actually. He invited me to sleep in their guest bedroom and through the course of the night he eagerly showed me videotapes of his b-boy routines from a few years earlier. Then we graduated to the battle tapes. All artists are obsessed with their craft in one way or another, all artists are nerds, and Mikey was no exception. He studied battles and freestyle routines as if they were his own personal Zapruder Film. Some of the footage we skimmed through were of my own battles. He laughed at my highlights and lowlights, and then he laughed at my opponents’ rebuttals.  He made it a point to let me know when he thought I got served. “You see what Akrobatik did right there? He got you right there. The crowd doesn’t know but…yeah. He pointed up and you looked up.” Hahhaa…OK. Little shit.

Then we moved onto other footage in his VHS tape collection. One figure he focused on in particular was Juice from Chicago. It’s clear that Mikey had an affinity for Juice’s ability to work with the moment, making an art of improvising and using an opponent’s lines against him during a battle. While watching the Juice battles & freestyles, Mikey dissected it all and gave me a dissertation on how no one can fuck with Juice. In fact, if you check Eyedea’s earlier battles you’ll probably notice a bit of Juice’s influence in the delivery style and mannerisms (e.g. bending the knee and hopping up slightly just as the punchline is being delivered to accentuate the moment.) He also sang the praises of Freestyle Fellowship, Souls of Mischief, and many others. He drew inspiration from these artists and built upon their design in order to contribute something unique like any serious student of music should.

As much admiration as Mikey had for Juice, this is one case where the student clearly became the master. I’ve always been confident in my own skills as a battle emcee but Eyedea is one of the guys who pushed the bar so high that the entire game had to change in order to give other people a fair shot. Take that for what it’s worth. It probably wouldn’t even be a footnote in whatever bullshit books get written about hip-hop, but Eyedea absolutely mastered a format that required an incredible amount of skill and nerve, setting the bar so high that only a select few emcees were able to reach it. I know that Mikey didn’t really care for this to be his legacy and he obviously made his mark in other ways, but it really did seem like his competitive and playful spirit was engineered specifically for dominating freestyle battles. At least in the beginning.

It was this special skill of his that propelled him into the collective consciousness of hip-hop worldwide when he won 2000’s Blaze Battle (originally broadcast on HBO,) hosted by KRS-1. I was in attendance at this battle, cheerleading pretty hard, front and center. I couldn’t contain myself. Here was this young, unknown “weirdo” from St. Paul, MN, someone I considered a friend, competing in the highest publicized emcee battle in the world. And he was breezing through the competition. Too easy. Like a Jedi using a light saber to slice through tomatoes. Of course there was the sneaky suspicion that Eyedea would be jerked by the judges one way or another, which made me cheer even louder. I made a few enemies that night because of my enthusiasm actually.

“I’m here 20 deep…and we can fight!”

When Eyedea was announced the winner it felt like a victory for all the underdog “weirdos” in the indie scene. It started to feel like talent would be recognized regardless of one’s look or origin. According to what I’ve been reading lately, this battle introduced a lot of people around the world to our particular brand of music. That’s crazy to think about right now but I believe it’s true. Had Mikey underperformed in any way that could have been a serious loss for all of our contemporaries who have managed to forge a music career over the past 10 years.

Upon winning the Blaze Battle it looked like he was about to ride the gravy train into mainstream success. The opportunity was there at least. However, instead of signing to Bad Boy (which I believe was one of the “prizes” of winning the Blaze Battle,) Mikey exercised a degree of artistic integrity that almost NO ONE in his position would have had they been given the same opportunity. He stuck with his Rhymesayers family and he used his money earnings to build a recording studio in his mother’s basement. The very last time I stayed over his house he showed me the set-up. Proper. I noticed the Hendrix and Miles Davis pictures on the wall. He explained how he was learning how to be an engineer and how to play musical instruments. Self-taught of course. It was at this time he was producing and recording his Oliver Hart album. He played me some unfinished tracks. I played him some new material of my own. It was like a battle of unreleased recordings. We began talking about doing a song together. When Slug dropped by  we recorded a song called “Embarrassed” over a beat Eyedea produced for one of my mixtapes. I think this was right around the time when we had the infamous “Orphanage Freestyle” on Fifth Element Radio. Speaking of the Orphanage Freestyle, if you’ve heard those recordings then you have a good idea of how tough it is to take the mic away from Eyedea. Hahaaaaaa this mic hogging motherfucker. How are you supposed to get word in edgewise when a dude hits the zone as often as he does? Amazing.

Slug, Eyedea & Sage Francis (circa 2000)

“Embarrassed” – Sage Francis feat. Eyedea & Slug

The first full nation-wide jaunt we did together was opening up for Atmosphere on their “Fill In the Blanks” Tour, 2001. I was the first performer of the night, Eyedea and Abilities went on second, and it finished off with Atmosphere (this time it was Slug & Mr. Dibbs) as the headliner. I can remember talking philosophy and music with Mikey during those long drives in-between cities. Both of us were sober and in a committed relationship at the time so rather than partaking in the typical extracurricular tour activities we just talked shop. Max (DJ Abilities) and Mikey would often spend their time discussing how their set went the previous night. I remember this being a constant topic of conversation in the van. Besides that, there was a lot of freestyling and story telling as we built an impressive collection of inside jokes.

An interesting factoid I always like to bring up is how Mikey only took two showers during the entire tour, a tour full of passionate and sweaty performances in cities all around the country. Apparently he had a theory that not taking showers would keep him from getting sick on tour. Something about building up bacteria that would shield him from other peoples germs. One of the showers was only because he had his hair cut and he needed to get all the rogue hair clippings off of his neck. I think the second shower he took was because he was about to see his girlfriend. Two showers…haha. TWO.  He didn’t stink up the van or anything, although J-Bird may remember differently. I remember Bird repeatedly saying, “God damn Mikey…take a shower!” It’s always been something I think about when I need a good laugh.

DJ Abilities, Aesop Rock, Eyedea, Sage Francis, Brother Ali

There was a particularly strange interaction I had with him backstage before one of our shows during this tour. He asked me to meet him backstage to have a talk. It seemed serious. When I arrived backstage he shut the door, looked me square in the eyes and in the most deadpan manner said, “You’ve been doing really great on this tour. You’re getting the crowd really excited. You’re making them hop up and down and scream and whatever else…you need to cut that shit out.” I laughed, thinking to myself, “OK, what does this dude really want to talk about?” He remained deadpan and said, “No, I’m serious, you need to cut that shit out.” There have been very few moments in my life where I couldn’t rationalize the situation or at least think of something clever to say in order to break the tension of an uncomfortable moment. This was one of those times. I stammered and said, “OK, man…well. I’m not going to change my set. This is how it’s going to be.” And then I left the room in a state of confusion. It was never spoken about between us after that. I still don’t know if this was his strange way of giving me a compliment or if he was actually reprimanding me. It’s possible he was trying to make sure the energy of each show had a natural arch and I was fucking with the flow of the evening, but if he was in my position I know that he would have hit on all cylinders the same way I was doing. Ultimately I chalked it up as nonsense and try to remove it from my mind. This interaction between us is merely a sliver in time compared to all we did together but it perplexes me to this day. For this…he wins. He wins at a game that I thought I was the best at.

The “Fill In The Blanks” Tour ended on an incredibly high note. I rank this experience up there with some of the best times in my life. Everything was new and fresh. Infinite potential and opportunity was tugging at our pants, and all of us were friends who had the most talented and amazing people around us. From this point on we all split and went our separate ways but we still continued a linear path into the minds and playlists of many. Not all of us stayed in touch as frequently as we used to. That’s life I suppose. I noticed I was falling out of touch with Mikey around 2003 or 2004. It bothered me but I didn’t want to make an issue of it. We were all busy. We were all tending to our careers. It seemed like the next time we connected was as performers (rather than battlers) at Scribble Jam, 2004. Mikey was drinking now. Very drunk in fact. I only mention that because his demeanor and mental state were noticeably different from the person I had made a close connection with a few years prior. He told me he broke up with his girlfriend. Or maybe he told that to me during a phone conversation at an earlier point, I can’t remember now, I just figured that the drinking and smoking was his way of dealing with the pain. I also accepted that maybe this had nothing to do with pain at all. He simply was in a different place, we were new people, and I sure as hell wasn’t in any position to judge. I freestyled with him on stage at the end of the event, along with a bunch of other people, and we all had fun.

Later that year we both performed at a festival called Rock the Bells, which was filmed for a documentary of the same name. In that documentary you get a glimpse of the change that was taking place in Eyedea & Abilities’ performance. The audience, who were mainly there to see Wu Tang perform together for the first time in 10 years, had their heads tilted like a dog hearing a new sound that it can’t quite make sense of. We had officially left the point where the pander-bear rapper placates the crowd with a barrage of familiarity and crossed the line into uncharted waters. In the film you can see the promoters anxiously looking on from the side of the stage like, “What the FUCK are they DOING???” This very same night I was pelted by a hundred water bottles on stage only to meet Mikey and Max backstage with wide grins. I think they were thinking the same thing I was. What the hell are we doing here? Admittedly my own problem with the crowd had more to do with antagonistic banter rather pushing the boundaries of my music. E&A were moving their music and performance style into some new psychedelic, post-rap realm whether people liked it or not.

Much to the chagrin of the hip-hop following Mikey had earned himself with his earlier achievements, he went on to involved himself with different bands of various music styles. These past few years I didn’t speak to him much at all, but I noticed that his appearance had gone into a full transformation from clean cut hip-hop style into some unkempt grunge aesthetic. Everyone noticed this. It was a matter of much discussion and backlash among the underground peanut gallery. This new look of his seemed to me like he was manifesting or exorcising some inner-ugly. Again, I couldn’t judge. Still can’t. I’ve got my own ugly to deal with and I’m of the opinion that an artist needs to be given the freedom to perform, act and look however the fuck they want. If the artist is in a bad place then the artist will figure his way out of it through use of his tools.

drawing by Joe Tower

My last personal interaction with him was during our Rock the Bells tour last year. He approached me in his homemade t-shirt and with long, greasy hair dangling over his face. It appeared as if he’d gone deeper down the “no shower” path I was first acquainted with in 2001. I prepared myself to encounter a stranger; to greet someone unfamiliar in a slightly recognizable form. Instead, and much to my relief, old Mikey emanated through. The old jabbing, ribbing, enthusiastic, self-assured, “It’s a pleasure to meet me” Mikey was standing in front of my face calling me by my full Christian name. I suspect he knew how annoyed I was by that name, especially since he did it so often, but I didn’t dare tell him out of fear that it would encourage him to say it even more. We sat down on a couch in the outdoor “green room” where he broke out his acoustic guitar. I looked at him like, “Are you serious right now?” He stared back with that jagged, crazy, gap-toothed smile. He strummed the guitar and sang something under his breath that seemed to waver in and out of key. I chuckled as the crowd of onlookers gathered at the gate. I snapped a photo for the sake of posterity. When we were done with our performances he gave me a t-shirt and his new CD before we went our separate ways. For the last time.

The news of Mikey’s passing shocked me numb. I was in Australia by myself at the time, wrapping up what I’ve long been announcing is my last tour. Maybe I’ll find something new and fresh again. Maybe not. If nothing else, Mikey has left me with the encouragement to explore my own uncharted waters and do so unapologetically. I’m in New Zealand at the moment trying to finalize this (perhaps longwinded) eulogy which I’ve written with the heaviest of hearts. It’s difficult to accept that the youngest, most ambitious member of anything I could ever consider my “crew” is the first of us to go. There is absolutely no justice in this situation. He was an artist in constant transition, a friend to many, a teacher to thousands, and a son to the proudest, most involved mother I’ve ever known.

If you blinked and missed a moment of Mikey’s brilliance he’d be sure to let you know exactly what you missed. Since he’s not here to do that anymore, I (along with all his friends and family) will gladly do that for him. R.I.P. champ.


RIP Micheal Larsen (1981-2010)


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Doseo Diablo says

From old days to now, you're a peice of my inspired motions! You will be missed and always loved. Your brothers will keep u alive in our hearts and minds! Ching Ching brother

ILUDE says

Embarrassed is one of my favorite songs, it is a shame he is no longer here, his music will live for ever and not many people get to have that privillage. I am glad this was written for him, I found out a lot of things I never knew. Eyedea was simply the best (no offense), he is my favorite and that will never change.

Doug Parry says

I saw him perform in Scottsdale,Az earlier this year and he was amazing. I got a copy of some new stuff he'd been working on,...it was like post grunge kinda stuff. Very different and unique. He had alot of range and started to show it. I will miss him and his presence in underground hip hop,...but I will still rock his shit forever.
A big fan,
-Doug Parry

Cord says

Wow. I really appreciate the thought and time that went into writing this, and for sharing your experiences with Mikey with us. I'm a huge fan of the whole underground scene, for a while now. What's wierd is that I just heard of Eyedea sometime in the last 6 months and his style had changed, but DAAMNN, dude's music was driven to say the least. I don't know why it's bothered me so much that he passed, maybe it's that this "icon" went unnoticed by me for so long, and that I truly appreciate it as an art. I don't want to babble. Just wanna say thank you Sage for writing this, and as you wrote this with a heavy heart I likewise read it with a heavy heart. Thank you Eyedea for being true to yourself and not taking the deal with badboy, and for molding and shaping part of the road for the future of the indie scene to roll in on. I've got tons of respect for you. R.I.P dude.

Anthony Russo says

Eyedea first introduced me to the underground/indie scene. I can say that I owe him my life for that. Had I not found Eyedea, I would not have found Sage. I would not have found Atmosphere, Apathy, Aesop. I would still bob my head to lame, commercialized, fake hip hop like I grew up with. I still listen to that first Eyedea track that I heard years ago. It is still one of the sickest things I have heard. It was nothing short of amazing. This world has lost someone that will never be replaced. I am just thankful that he touched my life as he did before we lost him. To those that loved him, I am so sorry for your loss. Know that his time here was spent changing the lives of many for the better.

Tara says

Thanks for giving us a little of your personal experiences with a man some of us were not fortunate enough to know so closely. He moved... and will continue to move so many with his work, I can't imagine what it would have been like to have a relationship with him like that.
Can't express how much I regret skipping out on E&A's last southern CA show earlier this year. I rationalized this by planning on going to Soundset next May where I was sure they'd perform again. So last time I did see them was Rock the Bells '09.

Nicely written... probably gonna go read it 12 more times now.

Sasberry says

Wow. Tragic. Beautiful. I love your vivid recollections. You truly TAKE ME THERE. I'm seeing it, hearing it..smelling it. (ha!)
Your candor and honesty....You had me laughing out loud and fighting tears. I'm heartbroken for you, for all of RSE, for Kathy, and everyone who had the pleasure of having had Michael in their lives at any point whether through his friendship or his music. A lot of beauty is happening and will continue to as a result of Michael's passing. Love to all of you.

Todd Kindler says


I was fortunate enough to meet both of you this year when you came to Portland Maine separately. I listened to most of the RSE broadcast and heard some of your other friends memories. Though he has moved on now, he will certainly never be forgotten. Thank you for sharing your memories with all of us.


Kadyelle says

That was a beautifully written tribute for a sentiment and feeling that really has no words. Wishing you peace and love after this heavy year. x

brainphreak says

RE: "When I awoke it took a good 30 seconds before I realized that my sense of relief was a hoax of my mind’s own doing"

I know this feeling all too well.. I have had similar dreams about loved ones that have been both beautiful and devastating even years later...

I Thank you for sharing these great stories. They are a small window into the life of both you and Eyedea. It's great that you two random humans had this time together given how short we all have on this earth.

Rach says

Thank you for sharing that Sage. I never got to meet the man, nor see him perform - my aim had been to save up to fly out for Soundset one year, I still will, but...damn.

'Embarrassed' was the first tine I heard Eyedea; all thanks to you Sage as I'd discovered the work of Atmosphere and yourself within the same week (good ol' Epitaph), and was so excited to hear this collaboration. His verse blew me away and further expanded a mind that had already
been wrenched open. Throughout the past 7 years or so

Jack Vaulhartz says

i'm almost overcome by these beautiful insights, much love and many peaces.

Dylan says

This was wonderful, Paul.
It's hard to gather one person into a piece of writing but I can feel pieces of Mikey in all of his songs and everything he did. I may not have known him the way you did but after listening to his music for so many years, he feels like one of my closest friends.
This is a tragic experience for anyone who saw him as not only a musician but also as a friend. I'm glad I was able to read that and see you're relationship with him.

A mutual fan,

Rach says

...his words have helped me through some tough times, I'll be eternally grateful for that. I'm glad we have his work to remember him by, even though listening will always be tainted by sadness that such a bright light and burning talent was snuffed out at such a young age. We have to be grateful that we've been lucky enough to be alive at the same time, and that his gift reached us. RIP Eyedea x

katie says

I remember the first time I saw E & A at the house of blues in vegas, eyedea was very drunk and only did about 4 songs and that was it..left me wanting more, then a few years later he was allowed back at the house of blues and very tongue in cheek apologized to us that remembered that first show, then went on to rip the set and still I will want more...gone to soon Mr. Larsen but thank you for the memories

apple bones says

such a shame and very ironic his best tune was smile , which he and Abilities made , R.I.P eyedea and yes your music will live on forever and make us " smile "

Laura Haynie says

Thank you for sharing all of these memories, Sage. As a person who did not know Micheal personally, I've been greatly affected by his passing and, for reasons I'm not able to articulate at the moment, it helps to hear stories from the people who knew him best.

I first was introduced to underground hip-hip about five years ago by a good friend of mine. It was an Aesop Rock track, and I remember thinking "wow, I had no idea music like this existed." My friend doesn't know how much that moment affected me, because just listening to that one Aesop track lead me to explore underground hip hop on my own.... and that's when I found Eyedea and Abilities' First Born album. As much as a like Aesop and everyone else, there was just something about Eyedea's lyrics that really connected with me. I've always felt like the most misunderstood person on this planet, but Eyedea's music made me feel as if someone actually understood me and it made me feel less alone in this world.

I realize in the last few years, Micheal began to explore other styles of music, which I heard didn't go over too well with some people who were only into "Eyedea" type music. However, I truly believe that each of us is on our own path, and it's important to listen to ourselves and follow that path regardless of others' opinions. That's why I have so much respect for Micheal - he stayed true to himself and did what he had to do because he knew he had to do it for himself.

My love goes out to you, Sage, all of Rhymesayers, Kathy, his grandparents, all his friends... and of course all the other fans who are in the same boat as me. Micheal, we will miss you....definitely gone too soon, but you have left a legacy that will continue to affect humankind forever.

Soundboysoul says

Thanks for sharing this with us Sage, R.I.P Eyedea

MDS says

I seen you guys play at UW-Stout (Menomonie, WI). First time I heard of Sage (he had a Metalli-fucking-ca) t-shirt on the poster. Funny shit. Sage killed the show, instant fan.

Dylan o. says


Thank you for writing this, it is so clear-minded and well-stated. While the focus of the story is on his music, it is really evident that your focus is on his personality --- something I now feel like I understand just a little bit. It is inspiring to see the underground world rise up in support of everyone's loss, no matter how connected or disconnected each involved individual/artist/fan may be.

Because you are one of the leaders of such a genre and such a community, your thoughts/kind words are seriously appreciated.

RIP Eyedea, a man whose music helped me smile despite the conflicts and contradictions of this world. He will be forever missed by all who keep existing, in the now.

Andreas says

Thank you Sage.

I’ve tried to wrap my head around a way to express how deeply Eyedea influenced me for days.
Up to a certain point in my youth I didn’t really have any musical idols or identified myself with any particular type of music. One could say I missed out on a lot, but none of the music I heard was really “me”. A lot of my friends were into hip-hop and one day I was introduced to Aesop Rock and was instantly hooked. This of course led to the gradual discovery of the whole “underground hip-hop” scene; Atmosphere, Brother Ali, El-P, Can Ox, Lif, Sage but infinitely more than anyone else: Eyedea.
Eyedea became my hero growing up. Back then the old “mainstream vs. underground”-routine was in full swing and everytime someone hated on the underground me and my friends would always say: “Have you heard Eyedea? Well, then shut the fuck up.” That was one aspect of Eyedea: The technically proficient MC and in my opinion back then completely untouchable given his flow and freestyle-skills. He was the one who truly inspired me to get into rapping myself.

But of course this part of my fascination with Eyedea didn’t form the core of the relationship I was to build with him as an artist. For not only did Eyedea have great mic presence, he also had amazing lyrics. The philosophical ponderings and stories that formed a huge bulk of his work touched me deeply. Here was someone whom I felt could paint a near mirror image of my soul and the problems and questions that occupied me. Because that was the whole point: Eyedea’s lyrics reflected my own problems with fitting into this world where few people seemed to understand me. Suddenly the feeling of disconnection with the rest of the human race was lessened because Eyedea understood – and he sympathized.

Revisiting his work these past days reveals so many aspects: Philosophical, dark, sometimes depressive but most significantly imbued with a kind of assertive positivity – hope. Eyedea covered both the negative and positive sides of human existence. He knew that life is painful sometimes but who doesn’t know that? What really made him stand out was his ability to reach out through his music – to pour his soul out and show others the way. In that aspect he was truly one of the strong.
I still feel the immense power emanating from his music.
It’s like he believed so much in himself that he truly made me believe in myself – and I can never thank him enough for that.
This post has become way too long I know, but the truth is no amount of words can ever be sufficient to express my gratitude.
Eyedea – you helped me shape my soul and made me a better and more caring human being – for that I thank you.
On a finishing note I would like to throw in a quote from one of his old songs:
“Rhymin’ keeps the posture of my back in fair condition/But why would I make this music when so few people listen?”
Well I did listen – and it warms my heart to see that other people did as well. The Eyedea lives on. My condolences go out to all the people who knew him in real life; his friends, the rhymesayers crew and his family.



Josh says

I was lucky enough to be back in the dressing room with E&A when you came offstage after that set at Rock The Bells where you got pelted with water bottles. Something I'll always remember, but now that moment is that much more important to me.

Johnny Boldt says

Thank you so much for writing this "Paul" (hehe). I was really hoping you'd blog on this when I heard it happened. I hope "Sean" does too, but I doubt he will...

I feel cheated that no academics are documenting this indy hip hop legends...

Chris says

My wife took that picture of you, Slug and Eyedea! Liquid Lounge Dallas, TX Halloween weekend 2000. You just made her day.

notes says

r.i.p. "( i performed at waterloo icehouse in austin right after eyedea and slug were freestylin for fun , i did the same.. i saw eyedea rock the house with dj abilities in san antonio until the power went out!

left with a sad feelin............... peace and love to all

jesse says

hey sage you always give people a great interpretation on how things really are from others eyes.. since i started growing up ive been listening to you slug and eyedea.. you guys helped me through some tough shit.. ive got tats from important quotes from all three of you.. my favorite from eyede was "you never fall if you never fight" RIP Mikey..

T.Weinandt says

Losing Eyedea is very tragic, such a talented individual and a real inspiration. I remember sitting down at an Applebee's and the server had an E&A sticker on his book. I told him Eyedea's the shit man!

Sage, you and Brother Ali delivered some very powerful messages about Eyedea that are un heard of.

Im hoping that there is a "heavy" tribute for/to Eyedea from everyone including The Grouch to Cypress Hill.

Eyedea your an icon, a legend. R.I.P (soul brother) see you when I get there.

T.DubbL U

Jenny Olson says

I never write on stuff like this or get very emotional without keeping it only in my head, but for some reason this seems appropriate. I especially related to the first part of this. My dad died eight years ago, but I still have the occassional dream where he tells me it was all a mistake. I always see him driving in one of the many big ass Buicks he owned. I chase him down and he lets me in the car. I ask him why he didn't stop all of the bad things that followed, why he didn't protect me, but in the end I'm just happy it was all a misunderstanding. It feels like life is going to get easier again. Like it isn't all on my shoulders anymore. I can breathe. When you wake up from those dreams it takes a while. I think it's because there is a part of us that cannot and will not deal with the full scope of reality. If we did, we would just stop. At least for me, my coping mechanism is exposed for what it is. Not some psychological evolution in dealing with death, just a coping mechanism, a way to get by.
I became friends with Kathy while we were both going to college and met Mikey through her. Kathy was always so kind to invite me to the shows. But after I started law school life just really got away from me. My friends kept living and I've just been doing what I'm supposed to do. Or what I think I'm supposed to do. For some reason with age I have become terrified of not making a deadline, not being prepared, and other neurotic stuff like cleaning. But anyways, the point is that everytime I wanted to go see Kathy and Mikey there was something due at work, at school, or for the Law Journal. I always said next time. I meant it honestly, but there was always an obligation I felt was more pressing than letting myself go have a fun night with friends. The most striking thing about all of this for me is that I literally ran out of next times. They are all gone. It is uncomfortable to look at my life in this way at 27. Running out of next times puts things in perspective, but I wonder how much of this recluse is just me now. For a while I have been dreaming about the day when I have made it. I hope all of this anxiety will fade and I won't feel so fucking weird in social situations anymore. It will go back to the way it was before life took shit in my lap and everything will be under control. I will have worked hard enough to really truly enjoy things again. But running out of next times has forced me to confront the true price of living this way in the hopes of someday. Shit, I might not even be here to enjoy it. Clearly nothing is gauranteed. Even if I get to that place, who knows if there will be people to share it. But enough of this verbal diarhea. Thanks for posting this. It gave me a chance to put some of my thoughts together. I guess I couldn't let this go without adding a small creep factor and say I'm a huge fan Sage.


Jon says

I think its safe to say Mikey's passing was a surprise to all of us, espically the guys over at rhymesayers. I just can't believe still what happened. When I think of all the great things he could do to not only his carrear but this entire Indie hip hop (only word to properly describe it) cult, I just wish I could take one year of my life and give it to him. R.I.P Eyedea, and you better not be fucking with us, I would be sooooo pissed at this point.

Aaron says

Thanks, Sage. That was wonderful.

The memory of Eyedea that sticks with me the most was when I met him roaming through the crowd before a show at the Annex in Madison. This was just before E&A was to drop their first album. I mentioned how excited I was for the album to come out and I asked him what I can expect from it. He simply said, "We will be doing stuff on this album that no one has ever experienced before in their life. It will blow peoples minds and we're not about to stop." Boy, was he right. Thanks, Eyedea. You're deeply missed.

rich says

awe-inspiring, wish i would of bought that poetry book he wrote and the carbon carousel cd that came with it.......i was slaving away at work to much to get the time to buy it.....forever regret that. eyedea and abilities is the reason i found ryhmesayers and all the wealth of underground hip hop in minnesota......you,murs,atmosphere,etc..... good story!
i loved the by the throat cd, pre ordered it, still listen to it. dude did some fast good rhymes on it too

sean seaberg says

For writing this. I'm sure you feel like it's not done. I never do. Feels like there is never any finality in anything we do. We all just try to pass all the important stuff...or what we consider important along. For some reason Michaels death felt very personal for me. Clearly it did for many. When you learn and develop as a result of someones ideas it sometimes seems almost as important as any relationship you may develop in life.

I'm sure you have fans tell you this. I've listened to you almost as long as eyedea and always put you both at the top of my wanna be art snob list of artists. You guys were always new and different. You said he was always in transition and your sometimes the same way especially with your albums. That's the fun part of life. Always growing and developing whether it's as an artist on a person. I can definitely say I've studied some music in my life. Yours and his included. The things that mickey said growing up and until the day he died were profound. He did research in his own way. He studied human nature and the condition. I've always been amazed by him and I'm not amazed by many people in this life. He was different whether it was on purpose or not. If you listen to his works of art you can tell he wanted so badly to help. He knew he was. We all seem to get caught up in our lives and the system to the point where most people aren't doing the things they love for work. I am lucky and so are you guys. I don't want to be broke and homeless, but even if I am I will always do the things I love to do. I know I will always try to help people. Most people die before they even understand how to live like this or before they even begin to understand the mindset that is freedom in a sense. Michael taught me alot from the first time I heard him when I was 18 and he had just released first born. He taught me a lot through his words and art. I was happy to finally met him and speak with him for the first time in about 04 briefly I think it was just after he released the E&A Album but I only had money to opt for the oliver hart album. He was one person I always wanted to have a real conversation with. I don't know if it was because I felt like I needed some of his knowledge to rub off on me or that he had keys within conversations that come from the really good questions. I finally got to have that conversation with him in Boston last January. I saw a recent interview he did at rock the bells and asked him about it. He is very matter of fact and to the point which can be rare. People who are intelligent often have a hard time relaying the communicative aspect of their theories in ordinary conversations without trying to over explain. Maybe I over-thought it. Even still what I enjoyed most is that he was very open to have a conversation whatever it may be. I know that him having existed and being such an interestingly infectious person has made my ability to help others easier. He wanted to make people smile most of all. Even though I'm sure he'd like to witness every other expression as well. He wanted us to think more. Theres many days where we sit. It's ok to sit and think. I don't know where I'm going with this anymore. Thanks for writing this though and letting us all into those moments. I think Michaels life was very special and most people won't realize it right away. They will though. He will be remembered. Always by me. I know that much. Hope you had a fun tour sorry I didn't make it out this time I'm slacking.

biggins says

Thanks for making me cry, Sage! Fucker. Eyedea will be missed and there is a huge void now with him gone. Sage, Slug, Eyedea, Sole and Aesop are what make up the sound track to my life. There has not been a mix tape/CD/Play list without you guys on it that I have put together in many years. I was listening to Deep Puddle Dynamics When my buddy called and told me that Eyedea had died. I'm sad

Gian romani says

Rest in power eyedea!
You will always be remembered for what you did, and you left a mark so giant when you left you can't ever be forgotten. Your music was amazing. Your writing was epic. Your thoughts on life were deep and made sense on so many levels. You changed my life for sure. Never had the pleasure of meeting you, but I'm your biggest fan! Thank you!!!

Lauren says

It saddens me to say that I too just discovered Eyedea's brilliance roughly a year ago. Thank you for sharing your story. This is why i love the underground hip-hop family & hold it so close to my heart....because it is just that, family. I'm touched to hear your memories from the late 90's and how you've watched this beautiful artist blossom into who we've all come to know & love through his music and brilliant lyricism. I was incredibly touched by the tribute to Eyedea & wish I could have been there. I cried as I watched his fellow artists, friends & family celebrate his life through music. What more could an artist ask for but to be remembered by the one thing he surely prided himself on? His artistic integrity never seemed to falter despite his changing stages in life. Isn't that what we all hope for ourselves? That the cores of our beings never change despite "the rivers nature to twist & turn".

RIP Michael "Eyedea" Larsen
your memory & legacy will forever live on through your music.

Jumpship says

that was fuckin beautiful sage. both of you guys have been a musical/life influence on me for as long as i can look back (7-8 yrs). rip eyedea.

keep putting in work sage. i know you got fire still in you man.

Adam Murauskas says

"When someone we love dies, we get so busy mourning what died that we ignore what didn't." -Ram Dass

I believe that the part of Eyedea that died is almost negligible compared to the part of him that still lives! ... through his memories... his music... his words... his humor... his enthusiasm... his passion... his energy… his friends... his family... his fans... through the MANY lives that he has touched. Nothing can take that away, not even death.

The first time I met Eyedea outside of a show, he introduced himself to me as Mike, not as "your favorite emcee's favorite emcee." I know that he sometimes pretended to be arrogant, but I'm quite sure that he was just having fun exploring human emotions and characteristics. He was not "attached" to any of it. You might say that he was "in this world, but not of it." He was really a humble guy if you paid any attention (see “Forget Me” on Many Faces).

I'm eternally grateful to this man for the fire that he shared freely with the world. The way he lived his life - unapologetically free to be himself and express his soul without fear of criticism or rejection - was an example for us all. Many have "come alive" as a result of his inspiration. Buddha said, "Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of one candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." As for "the life of one candle" not being shortened, I believe that our friend Michael was finished his work here. I believe that his soul needed more room to grow. Thus, he had to "shed his skin."

Thank you Eyedea, simply for being you. You have been a great teacher and friend to us all. Wherever a head bone nods to a fresh beat, you will be there with us. We love you, always. Sincerely,

-Your Mans And Nem

Nazareth says

That was really beautiful, especially the first paragraph. I never met Mikey, but his music impacted me on an insane level. I miss him so much. I could see a lot of myself in him, and that's very rare. I almost never relate to artists. I really wish I could have met him. It doesn't matter though. I'll always remember him and I've kept him in my prayers.

Mikey's music seemed to capture that one thing that a lot of people are scared to talk about. That unnamed feeling and that curiosity of the world. I know that his music makes me feel less alone. When he died, it felt like I had lost my best friend. RIP Eyedea

Jared Caraway says

I can't believe it's been almost two months since Mikey died. I met him only one time but was a dedicated listener for years. He is one of the first musicians whose passing deeply affected me. I feel like he was one of my friends.

His spirit, energy, whatever it was he had...it's beyond description. Few artists have been as relatable to me. Maybe that's due to my own mental/emotional misgivings...maybe it was just Eyedea. Whatever the case, I am so grateful.

hawkeye says

When all is conquered all that is left is the self.

EBabu says

Sage I love you and appreciate your recollections and offerings; your insight into the life of Eyedea. I am trully blessed to have been able to meet you (and give you a big hug!) and Eyedea. Thanks for coming to Minnesota, and thanks for changing my life, thanks Eyedea for helping me stay sober in times of anguish and accentuating my highs in times of carelessness.

brad cavill says

WOW your dream at the start reminded me of a Lally Katz Play called "Hip Hip Hooray" with the apocalypse bear in it if you ever get the chance to see any of her productions I would recommend you jump at it ...She is Brilliant and very much like you in a way cheers for sharing your memories on Eyedea R.I.P

My UglyEyedeas says

Mikey was the purest of performers. He talked to me specifically before a show in Chicago at the Bottom Lounge, mere months before his passing, and I will never forget it. He just seemed so excited to be performing for us. He put on an incredible show with Max that really blew my mind. Mind you, I have seen Sage live, also at the Bottom Lounge in May of the same year as well as seeing Atmosphere live and Mikey's was the one that sticks with me the most. Maybe it was because I got to have a detailed conversation with him about his art, maybe it was because he rapped within 2 feet of me in the crowd, or maybe it was because he performed with complete a complete lack of inhibition. I felt I got to know the person behind the artist in the short 10 minutes I got to talk to him. Hearing the news of his passing struck me incredibly hard for someone I hardly knew. This is the first time I've read Sage's view on Mikey's death and it fills me with even more respect for Sage. I saw him perform months earlier than E&A at the same venue in Chicago and his show was also incredible. Aside from that, hearing the perspective of a friend of Mikey's, I feel like I really did catch a glimpse of Mikey's true side in a short conversation and a 2 hour performance. His death was a huge loss to Hip Hop and to humanity as a whole. His music will continue to inspire people many years from now, and it inspires me every time I hear one of his songs, whether it's for the 1st of the thousandth time. R.Eye.P. Mikey

Sgt_Makisupa says

First, thanks for posting this again. Second, I was fortunate enough to see E&A live in Denver, Colorado. I first found Atmosphere '97 and '98. This lead me down a path into hip hop that has never stopped. I was able to find Eyedea through the Rymesayers crew. I was able to find Sage Francis. I was able to find Aesop Rock. I was able to find Aceyalone, Abstract Rude, Brother Ali. These emcee's in no particular order allow me to say proudly that I listen, live and respect hip hop in a manner that allows me to express myself. Thank you all from expanding my mind body and soul.

each2 says

I know this is neither here nor there but there was a time when I felt like I should distance myself from what I called "librarian rap." After taking off of work and seeing you live in madison, wisconsin, I got salty that this girl I thought I sweated got way more out of your set than I did... as she sweated the hell out of you...and I turned jealous hater. Sounds ass backwards now cause I realized years ago that it was because I'd love to see you naked way more than that girl...

I got the blessed opportunity to rent out that same guest room you had at mikey's mom's house and got to know the both of them as best I could, and I'll always remember one conversation with Mikey that kinda went like this:

me: yeah, sage francis, I used to like the hell out of that guy but I'm getting a little burnt out on the fact that a few kids I know that talk about sage francis like he's a genius don't understand where some of his lines come from, such as 'half shark-half man-half amazing' and they don't get the same feeling I do when I hear them.

mikey kind of looked at me like I farted, like real bad. He went on to tell this story about how he'd always respect you and I should too, if for no other reason than what you had to go through opening up for Wu-Tang, stripping down to your undies and rapping yourself in the American flag while literally ducking into thrown bottles and thrown insults, not missing a beat, something he says was one of the best performances he'd ever seen, ever.

I left the conversation with my tail between my legs and it helped me realize that I shouldn't be putting so many people, including performers, especially ones i had a crush on, on unattainable, inhuman pedestals. I'll always cherish and reference that conversation as a profound learning experience, and well, thank you and Mikey both.

D3M!5ED 1 says


Balloon says

Eyedea IS the shit, I love how he was the dopest freestyle battler ever but at the same time wrote some of the deepest tracks I've ever heard.


anne bartsch says

so well written...i met eyedea in ann arbor @ the blind pig before a show and thanked him for his cerebrally stimulating art. i also put in a request to hear his "even shadows have shadows" song. His talents, depth, perspective, and seemingly 'super-human' abilities are an inspiration to so many, on such a humanistic level. there should be a new rendition done on "the thinker" sculpture, with eyedea as the subject. what a tragedy...what an artist.

t. says

freestyle scholar

Dj audiyo says

I was lucky enough to have a few words with a great inspirational artist. You are a one of kind. RIP Eyedea

Justin Evans says

That was one of the coolest writings I've ever read. I met Mikey a few times in my life and every time the experience was undescribable. He told me the story about the Wu-tang show and how you played "Makeshift Patriot" in nothing but a flag and your underwear and all the fun shows you guys played together. You and I met in Missoula this last spring on your tour with B and Free Moral Agents and I thought I would just write and say thank you for sharing some memories you have with the person that has influenced me like a philosopher. Thank you.


Brennan says

Thanks for sharing Sage. RIP Mikey

Dom One says

Almost been a year and I'm still coming back to this. I had the chance to go see E&A over here in Los Angeles, but I had work the next morning. To this day I deeply regret it. I could've gone to see them, lose out on sleep and wake up for a 12 hour shift, but I chose not to. Now I see the mistake I made. It's not the biggest one but it's up there. It really made me realize and understand hindsight.

Reading this Eulogy, Watching Old Videos, Reading Interviews, Hanging up Pictures, Memorizing Rhymes and Lines, and bobbing my head to Artist such as these "Wierdos" has played a major part in my becoming. It's all been benefcial to me as an Influence to Write, Freestyle, Read, Research, Battle and my meager attempts to make beats on my free time. Where it'll go I don't know, but it really is my best way of dealing with my worst situations mentally and emotionally. To get back on point, It feels like I should say Thanks but that's an understatement. Eyedea impacted me like everyone else. I'll never get that chance to witness his Artistry or Genius or Innovation (or whatever you want to call it) in person, but what I can do is keep listening and share this intellect with someone who can actually appreciate it.


Elizabeth Larson says

So beautifully written. Thank you

Anonymous says

Not only Eydea but also every artists you have mentioned in this blog have made great changes in my life. The way you hold yourselves as artists and the unapologetic truth have made it easier for me to break out of my own cages and be myself without fear. ..When I was turned on to "Rhyme sayers music" it literally flipped a switch in my head, and I have never been the same.

You really do represent some of the last truth and hope to be found riding a beat, we need MC's like all of you in this world, we need people to listen to you..

Eydea will be missed,but never forgotten!

HeatherNbNy says

An amazing time it sounds like man. This was really great to read on this rainy. Afternoon in new York. Its great you knew him.. You guys have always inspired me.

Peter says

RIP Michael Larsen.

Josh says

I don't know what to say at this time. It's now been almost 6 1/2 years since his passing. I was 14 at the time and had no clue who he was, or who anyone was because I wasn't into hip hop then. First Born was one of the first hip hop CDs I bought, recommended to me by the guys at the record store I held my first job at when I was 17. Even then, though, I still didn't know. But as I've grown and learned so much about myself, I have periodically returned to that album and now I finally understand him. First Born speaks to me on a level no album ever has from any artist. My entire life I always thought I was alone in wondering if it was me who was insane, or everyone else. I have been in a dark place for a long time contemplating this, feeling alone, never thinking anyone could ever possibly understand. But since rediscovering this man, I realise there is, or was, someone who did. Somebody who could articulate my exact thoughts so well, it comforts me knowing there might be others who feel this way but just can't explain. I am not alone, and I never will be again. Thank you for everything.

Emily says

My best friends and I found him at such a poignant time, amid grief and loss and death. Right before he died. He reminded us of...us. No one we had ever heard said the things he said or explored the concepts he did. I could feel the intellectual and spiritual anguish in his music as i trailed it backwards in time from 2010 to his first recordings with Slug and Sage. I still do. I relate to it too well. Too many smart friends lost to pariah dom from this insanity of a culture. Too many lost to drugs and drink, suicide, brainwashing. His music shook the foundations of my soul and made me feel at home and shaken up and disturbed at the same time. We couldn't believe we had found such a kindred spirit only for him to die so soon after discovery. Those of you that remain still carry so much to be desired and heard, I love going to your shows to hear and see you create and remember Eyedea. I'm so glad you guys exist. I don't know if I would if it weren't for people like you. You carry on his memory well and your own music gives us reason to stay tuned in.

Much love.

m.c. says

An intimidatingly talented, but also inspirational man. R.I.P.

RE:fresh says

Eyedea inspired me to step it up like no one ever, sorry em.
We never met as I was always in and out of the joint instead of chasing your ass down to meet,damnit. You passed a week after my pops did to and I went to your bench in St. Paul when I finally had the chance..
Thanx for sharing this with us, Sage.

Amie says

Eyedea thought me to reject the labels put on me by society and by myself. I'm currently writing a paper about him for a class and it's raising so much emotion, listening to his work it still invokes the same strength as it did the first time I listened. I came across this page in my research and just wanted to say thank you!