Midnight Album Spotlight: Lyrics Born – Later That Day


Every Friday night, my show Nite Life kicks off at 9pm. And after 3 hours of dance-inspiring sets, at midnight, I choose one of my favorite records for the Midnight Album Spotlight.

This Friday it’s Bay Area rapper Lyrics Born and my favorite of all hip hop albums: his solo debut “Later That Day.”

I think that often a big artist’s first album is the best. My theory is that it takes years to get known, and all those years the artist is working away on the same songs to get them as good as possible. Once they hit a home run and get somewhat famous, often the work isn’t as personal or as intricate. Because they have to pump out a whole new set of tracks, and also because they are now surrounded by adoring fans who applaud even the simplest song.

I’m not sure if this is the case with Lyrics Born (aka Tom Shimura), who is still one of the finest live hip-hop acts around. But this album is definitely more personal and intricate than his later ones. From start to end, it plays like a movie. A funky, deep-voiced, deep-minded real-feeling day-in-the-life. It starts of with two songs about dreaming. Check out “Bad Dreams”:

The album continues with a few wake-up numbers like “Rise and Shine” and “Callin’ Out”. The main character, Lyrics Born, is a regular guy trying to make it. He’s smart and very frustrated with the government, the cost of everything, and his role as a good man in a society that only values money. As his day progresses, he calls the bank and finds out he’s got no money (there is a whole musical skit with cheesy hold music that insults Born’s intelligence and an electronic voice full of harsh reality). The song ends with some nighttime songs, which transition into a montage of processed pop-culture advertising.

Lyrics Born is an incredible poet. And he is able to rap his smart lyrics with the intensity many rappers have and a warmth they can’t match. His live show is packed with live DJ samples, live instruments and his gorgeous, dancing wife Joyo Velarde whose backup vocals prove her one of the biggest voices around. Here’s Lyrics Born with something to say and some scenes from their live show:

Lyrics Born is still releasing ultra-funky records, including his new one, Everywhere At Once (due out April 22), and I highly recommend his live show. He plays Tuesday, April 22, at Neumo’s.

Join Michele Myers for Nite Life every Friday night at 9pm. She also produces KEXP Documentaries, short radio features on KEXP-type musical subjects.

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One Comment

  1. Posted May 10, 2009 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    I’ll have to disagree a bit..I’ve found that most musicians are at their best in their second to third album. The first time, the pressure to be good is just too much and as an artist, you can find yourself constrained by that. Look at Eminem. First album was super BS. Second album…well, you know the story.
    Even classic rockers like Floyd had pretty mediocre first few albums. It was around the third album that they blossomed out.

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