Before Eyedea & Abilities were an MC/DJ pair, they were Mike Larsen and Gregory "Max" Keltgen, two friends from Minneapolis. In 1997, however, while still in high school, the duo began competing in the battle circuit, gaining recognition from high-profile wins at 1999's Scribble Jam and the 2000 HBO-televised Blaze-Battle World Championships, among others. Despite rumors of possible deals with Puff Daddy or Eminem, Eyedea & Abilities chose to sign with fellow Minnesotans Rhymesayers, and released their debut album, First Born, in 2001. A departure from the battle raps they had previously done, First Born was an introspective concept album musing about the state of hip-hop and life. Because both Eyedea & Abilities were involved in other projects (Oliver Hart and the Micranots, respectively), their second album, E&A, didn't come out until 2004. By the Throat arrived in 2009. On October 17 of the following year, Eyedea died in his sleep of an apparent drug overdose.