Lyrics Born: Channel Live

Lyrics Born has kept it live since the early ‘90s. Formerly half of Latryx, the San Jose MC has watched a solo career where his music continuously finds its way onto commercials, films, television, and even Adult Contemporary radio. As one of the head honchos at Quannum Projects, the veteran MC can also thank himself for his business triumphs.

After the release of Later That Day, and an entire remix album, Lyrics Born now prepares to go where few Hip-Hop artists dare to, live recording. On the verge of releasing his first live album, LB talks Bay unity, lady love, and even if DJ Shadow deserves RZA and Dre comparisons for other reasons. Check it out, kiddies. The Bay seems quite unified right now. DJ Shadow’s working with Keak Da Sneak. You’ve worked with E-40. How do you feel, as an independent veteran, about all this?

Lyrics Born: I think what you see now is music is that s**t is wide open right now. A lot more unusual s**t is happening right now in music than me working with E-40. It’s special in the sense that I don’t think people are lookin’ at it for differences necessarily, I think they’re looking at it like, “Let’s do some s**t that’s gonna be cool. Let’s be tight, and make a statement.” I just did a song with Mistah F.A.B., and what I like about it right now is that people just look at it as music. It’s that simple. That’s what I like about what I see. There’s a lot of cats who I used to rap with back in the day who went one direction while I went another, but we’re still the same people. It’s just a question of what road did you take and what style did you choose. The Bay’s so diverse. Within 20 minutes of each other, you’ve got DJ Q-Bert, me, Heiro, E-40, Mistah F.A.B., Keak. It’s not as big a deal as people may perceive it. It’s a little more natural for us. Writer, Jeff Chang was a founder in Solesides Records. In Later That Day’s liner notes, you acknowledged several journalists. As a free spirit approaching your art, how do you feel in general about Hip-Hop journalism?

Lyrics Born: I believe that the truth is never gonna come from one source. I believe you have to piece together a truth. Maybe what you read in a book in a book is not 100% valid for you, but Chapter One was. You kind of piece that together with another passage. Suddenly, you get a collage of truth. That’s how I look at things. Peoples’ opinions are valid, they’re whatever they want them to be. It’s not gonna make a difference to me. Certainly, if I have respect for the writer, I’ll take it constructively. By and large, I read it ‘cause it’s interesting to know. I pay attention, but you also have to know the back-story on where that person’s coming from. This fall, you’re releasing a live album. There’s only been a few live albums of significance in Hip-Hop. One is Boogie Down Productions, another was probably 2Pac. Why’d you go that route?

Lyrics Born: Absolutely! For exactly that reason. Number one, it is for selfish reasons. When I look at the artists that I love when I was a kid – you mentioned Boogie Down Productions, 2Pac, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown – when people look back at my body of work, hopefully, they’ll wanna know what was goin’ on in these days. If they’re interested in my work, they’ll not only see my sound and my direction, but they’ll also get a multidimensional picture of what I do in the live aspect. It is a huge part of my life, and I did want to document that. It’s not gonna be the last one either. God willing, I’ll make more. I want a complete body of work. Plus, you can count on one hand how many artists in Hip-Hop have done live albums. It’s just one of those things where I’m lookin’ at what people aren’t doing, and go out and do that. “Always Fine Tunin’” is such a brilliant record to me. It remains one of my favorite B-side-only cuts in Hip-Hop. People talk about Jay-Z’s swagger a lot, I really thought that record had some severe swagger. What prompted it?

Lyrics Born: We were working on Quannum Spectrum as an A&R and Executive Producer. That verse was actually a verse that I used to do in the Latyrx show, when I did shows with Latyrx. It’s funny, on the Latyrx Live bootleg which I put out on my site, you can hear me doin’ it. But I got to the point where, “You know what? If I’m writing this s**t, and I like enough to perform it live, I’m gonna go in the studio and record it. Even if it doesn’t come out an album, it’s gonna give somebody something, hopefully,” so I’m glad you said what you did. So I did it. Dan the Automator did the beat. It was gonna be a bonus track on Spectrum, but the [album] might’ve been a little too Lyrics Born-heavy if we did, so we just put it on the B-side to “I Changed My Mind.” Every time a Wu artist drops a solo album, critics tend to ask, “Where’s RZA?” When Snoop does a record, it’s, “Where’s Dre?” Personally, I’ve always wanted an explanation why DJ Shadow largely quit producing records within the Quannum and Solesides circle after such a promising start?

Lyrics Born: There’s no doubt, he’s a very talented guy. That goes without saying. The beautiful thing about Quannum is we were all in it together, no matter what. We kinda raised each other. We had no idea what we were doing. Nobody had record deals. There was no such thing as independent labels back then. It was a truly amazing time. It was coming from such a pure place. The industry was in its infancy, as far as the independent industry – it didn’t exist. We were out there, groping around in the dark. It sorta got to the point where we didn’t grow apart, we just grew up. When you’re in a relationship with somebody for ten or 15 years, you get older, you have kids, it’s just different. We used to have weekend long freestyle sessions. We don’t do that anymore, ‘cause we’re always on the road. When we’re not on the road, we’re in the studio. When we’re not in the studio, we’re with our families. It’s a different era now. What I love to see is that all the Quannum groups blossomed. Lifesavas is an established group. Pigeon John is coming up through the ranks. I love seeing that. “Lady Don’t Tek No” is the hardest Hip-Hop love song ever recorded, in my opinion. Tell me about the woman who inspired it on your end…

Lyrics Born: At that time, people thought that songs about women in Hip-Hop were corny, which is unfortunate. Our goal was to make something really funky, that slapped. You could throw it on and anybody’d like it. It was just some s**t to really hit home. We just drew on women in our lives that inspired us. You had the line, “Wherever you took my heart, baby, send it home.” That always made me wonder if it was a love song, or really a crush song like “Passin’ Me By”…

Lyrics Born: It’s all those things. It’s supposed to exist on a variety of things. Why’s “Tek” misspelled?

Lyrics Born: Wow…I don’t know. We used to always do s**t like that, man. We would spell s**t wrong just to be different. It didn’t go any deeper than that. Why’s Latryx spelled the way it is, or Quannum? Really, that’s all it was.