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Record Review 

Mike Averill, the Minneapolis MC who raps under the name Eyedea, won 2000's HBO-televised Blaze Battle, a high-profile rhyme contest in New York judged by none other than KRS-One. Soon thereafter, major labels began waving cash in the then-teenage rapper's face. But he abjured the silly money, went on tour as second MC with underground heroes Atmosphere and kept his music on his hometown crew's label, Rhymesayers Entertainment.

Last year's First Born (co-credited to Abilities, a Minneapolis DJ/beatmaker) found Eyedea writing over his head, shortchanging his natural gift for bumptious flow and smart-aleck insults. By contrast, the new The Many Faces of Oliver Hart -- credited to Averill's new pseudonym -- is gratifyingly lighter. The rapper still overreaches: Many Faces' 73-minute length would've benefited from judicious editing, and bromides like "Make money and die/That's the American way" (from "How Much Do You Pay?") sound no deeper than they ever do.

So Eyedea will never be Nelly. But any indie rapper whose first rhyme begins, "I'm here to break my own ball and chain," or who kills the turgid "On a Clear Day" to huff, "Here, let me cut this shit, man/It's a nice day/Fuck sitting here and writing, I'm going for a walk," is doing better, pleasure-principle-wise, than the majority of his backpacking peers. And on "Weird Side," he good-humoredly embraces his inner freak: "I swear someday I'm gonna be somebody's hero/But until that day, I'm just another fucking weirdo."

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