Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Latyrx [extended]

  • The Album [SoleSides, 1997] A-
  • The Muzapper's Mixes EP [SoleSides, 1997] **
  • Later That Day . . . [Quannum Projects, 2003] A
  • Same !@#$ Different Day [Quannum Projects, 2005] A-
  • Everywhere at Once [Anti-, 2008] **
  • As U Were [Decon, 2011] ***
  • The Second Album [SoleSides, 2013]
  • 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-

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Latyrx (Lateef & Lyrics Born): The Album [SoleSides, 1997]
Lyrics Born is deep and contemplative, Lateef speedy and confrontational, and together--on DJ Shadow's heads-up lead track, simultaneously, with only a balance knob and some small print between you and the crash of your rhyme-processing program--their playful mastery has no parallel in today's rap. Not all that many precedents, either, although it's significant that several aren't ghettocentric: early De La, 3rd Bass. They take more pleasure in words themselves than in tales, messages, explicit content. That granted, note that Lateef's riff on "those that talk most got the least to say" merits all the attention it gets, and that Lyrics Born's "Balcony Beach" is rap at its most spiritual--motherfucker actually seems wise. Except on the predictable boast tracks toward the end, their language elevates the music even when homeboy Shadow isn't producing, as he usually isn't. A-

Latyrx (Lateef & Lyrics Born): The Muzapper's Mixes EP [SoleSides, 1997]
endorsing Alice Walker and Ray-O-Vacs ("Lady Don't Tek No," "The Bumpin Contraption [The Recalibration]") **

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

Lyrics Born: 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-

Lyrics Born: 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"). **

Lyrics Born: 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!") ***

The Second Album [SoleSides, 2013]
[2013 Dean's List: 19]

Lyrics Born: 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") *

Lyrics Born: 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

Lyrics Born: 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-