Lyrics Born conducted by Todd E. Jones  

Lyrics Born: Born For Lyrics


There is a classic feel to the music of Lyrics Born and his music has been taking hip-hop into a new and innovative direction. Like Jurassic 5 (who he is good friends with), the music of Lyrics Born has that deep, dirty, soulful funk that just gets into your spine, your mind, and your soul. More than the music, the Bay Area emcee's lyrics and flow are impeccable. Like his music, his culture and his life is deep rooted in all forms of music. Originally born in Tokyo, he eventually moved to Berkeley, California.

In the 1990's, Lyrics Born met Gift Of Gab, DJ Shadow, and other people who would change his life forever. Eventually Solesides Records (which morphed into Quannum Records) was formed. Working with Qaunnum Records, Lyrics Born and Lateef The Truthspeaker formed Latyrx. They released "Latryx: The Album" to critical acclaim and formed a new, original, and intelligent approach to hip-hop music. Such classic cuts by Latyrx included "Burnt Pride", "Say That", and "Balcony Beach". Since then, Lyrics Born has been doing tracks for Qaunnum as well as collaborations with Blackalicious, Joyo Velarde, and Lifesavas.

In 2003, Lyrics Born (aka Tom Shimura) released his debut solo album "Later That Day". More than ever before, his vocal delivery perfectly complements his thick 70's disco/funk production style. "Later That Day" is somewhat of a concept album since it tells a story about one typical day in his life. The album begins with "Bad Dreams", where Lyrics Born is dreaming and he eventually wakes up. He goes on with his day and the LP ends late into the evening. While there is not a solid story, the LP flows with a grace and ease and the concept is never lost. The thick bass line along with the handclaps in the beat to "Calling Out" are accentuated with glossy female vocals and an energetic, funky delivery by Lyrics Born. One mind-blowing aspect of "Calling Out" is Lyrics Born's breath control. He rhymes so quick for so long that when the song is over, the listener will be out of breath.

Another excellent track is the sultry and sexy "Love You So Bad" with Joyo Velarde. "Cold Call" is a hilarious and funky statement about the annoying persistence of telemarketers. Lateef (of Latyrx) joins back up with Lyrics Born on soulful and poignant track "The Last Trumpet". Cut Chemist, Gift Of Gab (of Blackalicious), The Altered Egos, and (skater turned musician) Tommy Guerrero make guest appearances too. "Later That Day" transcends genres and will both entertain as well as surprise listeners.

Basically, "Later That Day" is one of the best hip-hop LPs that have been released in the past couple of years. There is not one filler track nor is there one weak beat or lazy rhyme. The album will be hard to top.

On a cold evening in Jan 2004, I had an in-depth conversation with Lyrics Born about Latyrx, production, singing, breath control, politics, and hip-hop. The future looks bright for Lyrics Born because his love and respect for the music of the past shines within him. Music flows through his veins and his heart pumps the rhythm. Lyrics Born was born to make music and we were born to listen.

MVRemix: Your solo album is called 'Later That Day'. Tell us about it. Who is on it?

Lyrics Born: It's my first solo album. I really wanted to do a lot of the things that culminated in my mind over the years. I wanted to release some of the things and go into certain directions that were not appropriate for a group setting. Another big goal for me was that I really wanted to get better as a producer, a songwriter, and an arranger. I really grabbed the bull by the horns and took it on myself, doing the bulk of the production on my own. I also wanted to make a decent album that was varied. All the songs work together but they are still all different. That was real important to me. I also just had a certain sound that I wanted to do.

MVRemix: What is the meaning behind the title 'Later That Day'?

Lyrics Born: The album was supposed to be a collection of songs that change with a progression and different tones, motions, thoughts, feelings, topics and textures. The challenging part that I realized was this: how do I bring all of these songs together in a cohesive way since they vary so much? I think the underlying sound and the underlying theme is cohesive but I still had to ask: how do I bring these different styles and worlds together? I thought of the concept of going throughout the day. You go throughout your day, your moods change, what you think about changes, and attitudes change as you go through certain emotions from morning to night. The album started off late last night with 'Bad Dreams' and then ends late tonight with 'One Session' and 'Outro'. That is what I tried to do. I'm not sure if I quite hit it on the head but that's what I tried to do.

MVRemix: Do you have a favorite song on the album?

Lyrics Born: They all have their seasons with me. Right now, I like 'Bad Dreams' and 'The Last Trumpet' with Lateef. I like 'Calling Out' and 'Love Me So Bad' with Joyo Velarde. Last week, it was different.

MVRemix: When making hip-hop songs, do you go into the studio with pre-written rhymes, lyrics, and themes or do you hear the beat first and write then and there?

Lyrics Born: It totally depends. Generally, I start with the beat. Sometimes, I just have an idea for a song I want to do and I try to compose the music to match the mood that I am trying to capture. Other times, I try to shape the beat around things. Generally, it starts off with a sample, like a simple loop. As I find more ingredients, things start to take shape and it inspires cadence, inspires a subject matter or topic or style.

MVRemix: How did you hook up with Lateef and form Latyrx?

Lyrics Born: All of Qaunnum met at college. Lateef came along in 1992. Everybody was always rapping together and Lateef was working on his first 12-inch and Shadow laid this beat for him. I told him, 'I got to have this beat! I have to rap on this too! You must put me on this thing!' It all started right there.

MVRemix: When did you first begin rhyming?

Lyrics Born: I would say like when I was in 6th or 7th grade.


Related content:
  • Lyrics Born 2003 Interview by Todd E. Jones
  • Lyrics Born 2004 Interview by Hugo Lunny
  • Lyrics Born @ The Plaza, Vancouver by Adam LeBlanc

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