By: Chris Pacifico
Lyrics Born is a true visionary. As a musician, he's expanded the boundaries of hip-hop by mixing a stew of various grooves with his untouchable word flow. No other emcee out there has been able to match his style of rapidly stacking verses like an advanced level of Tetris.
In the early '90s at UC Davis, Lyrics Born (aka Tom Shimura) met a kid named Josh Davis who would go on to become DJ Shadow, Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel of Blackalicious and Lateef the Truth Speaker, with whom LB eventually formed Latyrx. These meetings provided the spark that ignited the extended crew and label known as Solesides that eventually evolved into Quannum Projects.
His 2003 debut, Later That Day, tore holes in dance floors. 2005's Same Shit, Different Day made the concept of a hip-hop remix album more than just a disposable entity designed to shake a quick dime with bland re-hashes. Same Shit let fans hear the tracks in a different light with an emphasis on artistic vision.
The sound of chirping crickets is what you hear when someone asks what the last great live hip-hop album they heard was. Live hip-hop albums are usually blander than a boiled steak but LB's Overnite Encore: Lyrics Born Live! (released 10/9/06 on Quannum Projects) was able to show how picking the right crowd in the proper setting can bring the live experience right through your speakers.
Hard at work on his much anticipated new studio release, Lyrics Born took a break to give us the lowdown on his roots, cutting a proper album and why the land down under is near and dear to his heart.
JamBase: At what point in your life did you aspire to start rhyming?
Lyrics Born: I think from the real real early age of like four or five years old I knew I wanted to be some sort of performer or artist, but it wasn't really until I heard hip-hop at like six when I moved to the Bay Area when I really realized what type of artist I wanted to be.
JamBase: Were there any artists that gave you a spark or influence?
Lyrics Born: The rap songs I heard was stuff like Sugarhill Gang and "Double Dutch Bus" by Frankie Smith, and some early and mid 80's funk stuff I heard when I was a little kid. That's kind of what got me going. Later on, when I was in grade school and junior high is when I started hearing artists like Kool G Rap, Ice Cube, Boogie Down Productions and Eric B. and Rakim.
Let me ask you about Same Shit, Different Day because a lot of people tend to view remix albums as just something for DJs to lay down when they're either spinning at a party or making a mixtape. But, it's noticeable that a lot of people seemed to embrace the album as a whole. Were you meticulous when you chose who to remix the tracks?
I definitely was because when you talk about what you're first perception of a remix album is I was trying to avoid that. I didn't want people to look at it like "Oh well, this is just a bunch of shitty songs that were put together in an effort to sell records." I wanted to make an album like Same Shit Different Day feel like a new album. When I did my first album [Later That Day] there were a couple of outside producers but for the most part I did it entirely myself. I didn't want it to feel like that. I wanted it to feel like there were a lot of other influences involved because Later That Day was not that way. So yeah, I was very selective about who I got to remix it, and very selective about whom I wanted to work with and what vocalists I wanted to work with on the album. It needed to feel a little less conceptual than Later That Day but still feel like a whole cohesive album.
Was the process of sequencing something that you also took into play?
That's a great question. Rarely do I get asked about sequencing. I think it's one of the more important things about putting an album together. You can have a lot of great songs but for an album to feel like a great album it needs to flow well, and that falls entirely in the hands of whoever is sequencing it. I think there's an art to it, there really is. The songs can be great but if they're not put in the right order then it just feels choppy and doesn't flow.
Totally. It has to have that ebb and flow. I'm a compulsive vinyl collector and I just love that Side A, Side B feel.