Review Summary: Eyedea & Abilities final recording, an all too easily dismissed swan song...2 of 2 thought this review was well written
After having delivered two well-received, though distinctly different, records under their “Eyedea & Abilities” moniker, the pair receded into a hiatus that lasted nearly half a decade. Then in 2009, the duo returned to the studio having been changed drastically as people over the course of their five-year absence, the prolific emcee and DJ conceived a record, “By The Throat”, that marked a sharp contrast when compared to their earlier output.
An experimental hip-hop record with many alternative rock elements fused within it. This divergence from their style led to large amounts of backlash from the music community, as the turntablism laden production and largely rap battle-centric lyricism are abandoned almost entirely in favor of a more thematically based stream of consciousness style by Eyedea, and more of a backseat for DJ Abilities on the production side of the album, which isn’t to say that the production is poor, in fact it’s beyond good, but rather that it’s rarely ever given the spotlight as it had been on the group’s past efforts.
While the material is quite broad on this record, with several themes including: love, loss, drug use, control (or lack thereof), death, isolation, and etc. remaining as constants throughout the album’s ten tracks, this vastness has often been a point of criticism with critics claiming that the record lacks a clear sense of focus, or identity, as the songs present on here often jump back and forth between aforementioned themes. To contradict that opinion, one must look at the person responsible for much of the driving creative force behind this album: A man on the cusp of thirty, caught in the midst of an identity crisis, suffering through many of the things explored on “By The Throat”, and fighting to present himself to a wider, more diverse, audience, seemingly having somewhat lost touch with the connection he shared with the fans of his earlier hip-hop work, as well as simply enjoying genres outside of the one he was most highly regarded for, many of these projects have an obvious influence on the sound here with mixed results. However, from this perspective, it’s truly no wonder that “By The Throat” came out the way it did, as a powerful statement issued to the hip-hop community, showcasing an artist feeling alienated in a genre where he should have felt at home musically.
That said, Eyedea is at the peak of his lyrical abilities on this record, with some of the tracks containing, arguably, not only some of his best work, but some of the finest lyrical prowess seen throughout the entire hip-hop scene in quite some time, and his flow is mostly consistent throughout the record’s running time. It could definitely be argued that the record is far more focused on the lyricism than on the production, as Eyedea's lines are filled with strong imagery, wordplay, wit, and who knows what all else.
Although the record’s highlights are going to be subjective based on the listener, most would probably agree that “Burn Fetish”, “Junk”, “Smile”, and the title track are the most obvious standout tracks on the group’s final outing.