CD Release - Small Eyez: Open wide

Hip-hop's next superhero

Small Eyez (born Emmnan Twe) is a comic-book nerd — hardly the image one associates with today's snap and trap rap. Not that he cares. Eyez learned early on how to break away from the preconceived notions of the world.

"I used to escape from reality, because as a kid I just had really horrible experiences based on having one arm," the Dayton, Ohio-raised rapper says. "So I escaped through comic books. I was attracted to world-changing stuff."

Though the 23-year-old recovered long ago from the wounds that were inflicted from incessant childhood teasing, the scars are still evident in his music. His sound is self-aware and critical, yet hopeful.

Vipassana, Small Eyez's standout 2006 debut, earned him acclaim in hip-hop's indie circle, and led him to open for dead prez, Jaspects, Monica, Young Jeezy and Talib Kweli, among others. But his growth as an MC is most evident on 2Morrow, his latest outing with Virginia-bred producer Soul Stirrer. After meeting on MySpace and finding out they both attended Morehouse, the two decided to capitalize on their musical connection, and formed the group of the same name earlier this year.

"He has a futuristic sound," Eyez says when asked what drew him to Soul Stirrer's production.

Taking the title 2Morrow from "The Tomorrow People," an old Nickelodeon show about superhero kids, Small Eyez's early self-awareness contributes to his braggadocious stance on "Mick Swagger" and his childlike optimism on "Cruise Musik."

"I come from another planet," he laughs. "Nah, I grew up in a good family environment. My father was educated in the sense of history and black history. ... That kind of upbringing gives you a different way of looking at life."

2Morrow demonstrates his Kanye-like humor, while showcasing his progressive rhyme scheme. And Soul Stirrer's Pete Rock-based production provides a jazzy, energetic backdrop for Eyez to share his hard-won perspective. Endorsed by the Aphilliate's DJ Jamad, he hopes the 10-track EP impacts people.

"That's why I love the whole superhero shit," Eyez elaborates. "When it all comes down to it, nobody can save the world. All you can do is do you and influence other people with your actions."