Review Summary: Eyedea & Abilities final recording, an all too easily dismissed swan song...
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 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 found in their older material has been abandoned almost entirely in favor of a more thematically based stream of consciousness style by Eyedea; along with more of a backseat for DJ Abilities on the production side of the album. This 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 on this record is quite broad and spans several themes, including: love, loss, drug use, control (or lack thereof), death, isolation, and etc. featured as constants throughout the album’s ten tracks; however, this vastness has often been a point of criticism with many 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. In an attempt to counter that opinion though, one must look at the person responsible for much of the driving creative force behind this album: A man on the cusp of thirty and 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 after 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. And it is almost indisputable that many of these projects had an obvious influence on the overall sound of this LP. However, from this perspective, it’s truly no wonder that “By The Throat” came out as it did, as a powerful statement issued to the hip-hop community that showcases an artist feeling alienated in a genre where he should have felt quite at home musically.
All these things 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 prose seen throughout the entire hip-hop scene in quite some time; with his flow remaining 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, and wit.
And although the record’s highlights are going to be subjective based on the listener, many would probably agree that “Burn Fetish”, “Junk”, “Smile”, and the title track are the most obvious standout tracks on the group’s final outing.