Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Lyrics Born

  • Later That Day . . . [Quannum Projects, 2003] A
  • Same !@#$ Different Day [Quannum Projects, 2005] A-
  • Everywhere at Once [Anti-, 2008] **
  • As U Were [Decon, 2011] ***
  • Real People [Mobile Home, 2015] *
  • Now Look What You've Done, Lyrics Born!: Greatest Hits! [Mobile Home, 2016] A
  • Quite a Life [Mobile Home, 2018] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Later That Day . . . [Quannum Projects, 2003]
See: Spellbinder. A

Same !@#$ Different Day [Quannum Projects, 2005]
Unlike most remix albums, not a fanbase-only ripoff. None of the eight remakes is inferior to the Later That Day . . . version; Evidence and KRS-One's "Pack It Up" and a funked-up "Hello" constitute clear improvements, "Do That There" piles on ridiculous rhyme, and the standout "I Changed My Mind" was a 12-inch. Nor is that all--the five new titles include a Bay Area praisesong, a motormouth "capping" dis, and just one too many showcases for LB's quasi-operatic helpmate Joyo Velarde. In short, had Later That Day . . . come second, you might well prefer this reinterpretation. A-

Everywhere at Once [Anti-, 2008]
"Hella" good rapper swears that this album he'll break out, and then, unfortunately, writes album about it ("Whispers," "Do You Buy It"). **

As U Were [Decon, 2011]
"When I was younger I/Used to wonder why/People in the public eye/Always lose their fuckin' minds/Now I'm coming up on 35/They didn't teach this shit in Berkeley High" ("Pillz," "Oh, Baby!") ***

Real People [Mobile Home, 2015]
Hold on, Tom--when we say funk, Galactic is not what we have in mind ("Around the Bend," "Real People") *

Now Look What You've Done, Lyrics Born!: Greatest Hits! [Mobile Home, 2016]
Although his albums work fine as units, this cherry-pick cements Tokyo-born rapper Tom Shimura's demographically improbable standing as--with the exception of the elusive D'Angelo, I guess--the finest trad-funk vocalist of the new century. True, he lacks the black South chocolate that would normally flavor such an offhand drawl and relaxed flow--his very male timbre is more redolent of a northern office grunt shooting the shit over a six o'clock beer. But his cadences make the music move. Shimura's true place of origin is Berkeley, which would locate his politics if he didn't believe that in hip-hop, wisecracking middle-class critical realism is ideology aplenty. Instead, his home city has nurtured in him a taste in beats that at its best recalls both Boots Riley and Too Short. It's an East Bay thing, so try to understand. A

Quite a Life [Mobile Home, 2018]
Exuberant and extravagant if gravelly at times, chanted more than sung because Tom Shimura is a rapper, this major funk vocalist's sixth solo studio album celebrates life the hedonistic way. Its first four tracks praise sex as chocolate cake, bling that includes a stegasaurus skeleton and some sasquatch fur, the girl from first-period English who turned him out, and the beauty of difference. But it also embraces life the conscious way. "Can't Lose My Joy" distills his wife Joyo Velarde's long, frightening triumph over non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The double-reversed James Brown cover adds that question mark to "This Is a Man's World?" for the best of reasons. And we'll call the unlisted bonus track "Arrest the President" because it begins by chanting that phrase 14 times before cataloguing shortcomings that include his small penis. A-

See Also