He had one of the most rapid deliveries and fastest minds of any rapper in town, and now Micheal Larsen will be known for leaving us way too quickly.
Known to independent hip-hop fans worldwide by his MC name Eyedea, Larsen died unexpectedly over the weekend at home in St. Paul. He was 28.
His mother, Kathy Averill, said she did not know the cause of death and is awaiting autopsy results. She found him on Saturday and believes he died in his sleep. "He was doing great and had a lot of things going on in his life," she said.
Larsen made a name for himself while in his teens, competing at battle-rap competitions around the country, including Ohio's Scribble Jam, where he took top honors in 1999. He and his childhood friend, Max Keltgen (aka DJ Abilities), also joined Minneapolis' top-name hip-hop act Atmosphere in the late-'90s as its backup rapper and turntablist, respectively. They went on to record three albums as Eyedea & Abilities for Atmosphere's homegrown label, Rhymesayers Entertainment, including last year's "By the Throat."
During a four-year hiatus from Eyedea & Abilities prior to "By the Throat," Larsen started up several music projects that showed off his adventurous streak, including freestyle rap act Face Candy and his experimental rock band Carbon Carousel. He also made solo rap albums under the moniker Oliver Hart and wrote poetry. His mom said he finished a new Face Candy album and a poetry book in recent months.
Other members of the Rhymesayers crew were reportedly in a state of shock and unavailable for comment Sunday. Larsen was seen hanging out and appeared to be in good spirits at 7th Street Entry on Friday night, when Abilities performed with another rapper from Los Angeles, Pigeon John.
Almost as wise-cracking and gregarious offstage as he was on, Larsen spoke seriously in 2002 about the brotherly chemistry that helped make Rhymesayers a national presence.
"It's enough that we're all friends and trust each other completely," he said. "But things are set up so that we all benefit from what the others are doing."
Averill is working with Rhymesayers toward a memorial for Larsen later this month and possibly a fundraiser in his name on what would have been his 29th birthday Nov. 9.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658