This weekend in Minneapolis is a two-day celebration of the life of Micheal “Eyedea” Larsen.
Among the many facets of his legacy, Eyedea is remembered as one of the absolute greatest battlers to touch the mic, carving out a name for himself in the turn-of-the-century freestyle scene and then using that notoriety to catapult very un-battle-like music into one of the steadily growing and most devoted fanbases in the genre.
Even today, more than five years since his passing, new fans discover his work at a rate that’s really unprecedented for the indie-rap and battle scenes. With fans heading this Sunday (Nov. 8) to Cherokee Park for a potluck dinner and Monday (Nov. 9) for a special sold-out evening at First Avenue, we’ve decided to jump in the tribute mix by revisiting one of Eyedea’s first major battle victories, the Scribble Jam 1999 finals against veteran battle champion P.E.A.C.E.
On paper, without even watching the battle, if you’re familiar with the names, you know what an absolute clash of titans this match-up is. P.E.A.C.E., a member of legendary L.A. rap collective Freestyle Fellowship, was/is one of the most revered and feared freestylers to ever touch a mic. Among the genre’s all-time greatest innovators, the sheer technical mastery and boundary-pushing of his performance in this battle might be a touch abrasive to new listeners who’ve never heard him before. Sometimes the masters of a craft can be that way.
Eyedea, who's always had a heavy Freestyle Fellowship influence, entered the battle with solid knowledge of his opponent, an insight that P.E.A.C.E. made up for with sheer microphone mastery. However, Eyedea happened to be one of those talents who wasn’t just “once a generation,” but more accurately just “once.” His wittiness and performance ability could more than hang with P.E.A.C.E., and meeting in the neutral ground of Ohio with neither benefitting from hometown biases made the clash all the more special.
This battle is possibly the only Eyedea victory that one could make an argument for disputing. Even Eyedea himself disputes the win in Minneapolis emcee/hip-hop historian Zach Combs’ outstanding book Headspin, Headshot & History: Growing Up In Twin Cities Hip-Hop, where he admits that the famous "Bone Thugs" punchline was inaccurate.
Still, both performances exemplify everything a freestyle rap battle can and should be, and while some practices may seem bizarre by today’s standards (like P.E.A.C.E. asking for the beat to be turned off), it’s a glimpse into the intensity that this era could foster.
After getting the victory here, Eyedea would go on to continue becoming a legend. P.E.A.C.E. and Freestyle Fellowship are still creating music to this day, with Fellowship member Myka 9 wearing an “R.Eye.P.” shirt in the 2011 video for “We Are.”
Every Thursday, BattleRap.com posts a classic battle that you should know about, or at least be reminded of occasionally. See them all here.