The long time friend and collaborator of Blackalicious and DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born is no stranger to hip hop. In fact, he and his friends, who would later become Quannum Records, have helped to mold and shape the unique, creative brand of underground hip hop that California is so well known for.
Lyrics Born solo debut album, Later That Day, has received an insane amount of critical acclaim. From MTV to Entertainment Weekly, Lyrics Born has been getting nothing but props. The music writers and editors of Amazon.com considered his debut album Later That Day, the # 2 hip hop album of 2003, superseded only by the album to which it is often compared, Outkasts Speakerbox/The Love Below.
Born in Japan and formerly known as Asian Born, Lyrics Born isnt interested in making his ethnicity a focus in his music, neither via his moniker or elsewhere. Lyrics funkdafied debut proves that he wants to make music for the people all the people. In the mist of a hectic production schedule Lyrics took some time to speak with Allhiphop about the new album and the current growth of hip hop.
Allhiphop.com: You grew up in Berkeley, was there a lot of hip hop in Berkeley?
Lyrics Born: In the sense that you could hear it. Most of the guys that rapped was from Oakland or Richmond, so I was like right in between. So I just got with those guys cause those were the guys that were serious, rapping in talent shows and in basements.
Allhiphop.com: Fast forward to college, where you met your crew.
Lyrics Born: Yeah, thats were I basically met what would be Quannum, which was Shadow, Xcel, Gift of Gab, Joyo Velarde, I met all those guys in college. We would just get down in Xcel and Shadows apartment and we would just rap, rap, rap. And we tried to shop a demo tape, but our homies would be like, why yall trying to shop demo tapes, why dont yall just make your own records and that was it.
Allhiphop.com: Describe the album to people who dont know anything about it.
Lyrics Born: The Funk
Allhiphop.com: What kind of production?
Lyrics Born: I mean, its the funk. I mean its kinda hard for me to I kind of make it rather than describe it, yaknowwhatImean. So its hard for me to describe it, but Ill just say that its very multi-dimensional, its not 15 tracks of the same tempo, Im doing a lot of different things on the album. Theres a lot of funk mixed with Reggae, theres a lot of funk mixed with rock, soul. Basically, its just my brand of hip hop.
Allhiphop.com: Break down the concept of the album as it relates to the title, Later That Day.
Lyrics Born: Well, I just wanted to do an album that had a wide range of emotions and feelings and subject matters, ya know, like what happens when you go through the day. Ya know, you got all these different things on your mind and it changes as the day progresses.
Allhiphop.com: Whos featured on the album?
Lyrics Born: My man Lateef from Latryx and Gift of Gab from Blackalicious are the only rappers on the whole album besides me. And production, DJ D Sharp did one track, Cut Chemist from Jurrasic 5 did one track and the rest of the production I did and thats on purpose. I didnt want to make a rap album thats got 8 million people on it and then I got to do a tour and Im doing a bunch of one verse tracks. Im not trying to go out here and have like 30 people on every song. So its not your average rap record in that respect.
Allhiphop.com: You changed your name from Asian Born to Lyrics Born, whys that?
Lyrics Born: I just think that its not fair to me and its not fair to the rest of us, for people to assume, or for me to assume, that my experiences or my background, my history, my outlook is the same as the rest of us. Because were a very diverse group, within the group, we all come from different backgrounds and different histories and its just not fair to me and its not fair to other people to make it seem like were all the same, cause were not. And thats the mistake that people make in this country, because they put us all together, and its just not that way.
Allhiphop.com: So you felt that changing your name to Lyrics Born more represented that diversity?
Lyrics Born: Well actually, how that came up was we were freestyling one night and I said that and it was a lot of people there and for some reason that just stuck and they started calling me that.
Allhiphop.com: Do you ever make an attempt to speak to the Asian community in particular in your music?
Lyrics Born: Ya know, I make music to speak to people in general. Im very aware that probably a good portion of my audience does reflect my cultural, yaknowwhatImsaying, but I dont make music for anybody except for the human being, I dont leave anybody out. I make music from my perspective and my goal is that it connects with everybody and that everybody can get something out of it, so no, I dont make culturally specific music at all.
Allhiphop.com: A lot of media outlets have been comparing your disc to Andre 3000s The Love Below for various reasons, and they tend to label it alternative hip hop. As of late, trying to define hip hop has become a big thing, everyone seems to have a different take on it. What do you think hip hop is?
Lyrics Born: Its always gona change, that conversation will always be had. I think were in big trouble when people stop asking that question. Its just gona change, I mean think about hip hop ten years ago as compares to now. It will always be that way, and its gona keep changing and morphing, and its gona keep spilling over into categories that people arent comfortable with and thats the whole point. You cant control it, you cant put it in a box with a simple definition, its not gona happen cause its literally God speaking through human beings and how do you contain that, how do you put a label on that, you cant. A lot of people didnt like the direction hip hop was going with Ice Cube, now everybody looks back at those records as classics. You aint got to like it, but its gona change.
Allhiphop.com: On this album you pretty much kept it in the family with the features and producers. Is there anyone else youd like to work with?
Lyrics Born: Oh, youre kiddin, millions. I wanna work with Buju Banton, Eminem, I wanna work with Sade, yaknowwhatImean, I wanna work with Anita Baker, I could go on and on.
Allhiphop.com: So whats next for Lyrics Born, is their a tour we can expect?
Lyrics Born: Yeah, just look at the website www.lyricsborn.com for the dates. Im working on a remix album, called Same Shit, Different Day.