Release Date: Oct 25, 2010
Record label: Decon Records
Genre(s): Rap, Alternative Rap, Underground Rap
With a name like Lyrics Born and more than a decade's worth of experience in Bay Area underground hip-hop, you'd think Tom Shimura's top priority would be his rhymes, though that isn't quite the case here. They're definitely up there, but on As U Were more so than on his previous albums, Lyrics Born's main attraction is the funk. Which is to say that the words are good but the beats are better.Shimura, who cut his teeth as half of the early '00s group Latyrx and is co-founder of the Solesides collective with the likes of DJ Shadow, the Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel, never really subscribed to the cold intellectualism that self-consciously underground hip-hop is known for.
With Lyrics Born, it has always been about the bounce. Take "Callin' Out", the first single from his 2003 solo debut, Later That Day..., which introduced the MC (real name Tom Shimura) to an audience that might not have been up on his work with Lateef the Truthspeaker as half of Latyrx. Despite his dexterous, lyrically agile performance, "Callin' Out" stuck in your head as a body-rocker, with its rubbery knock overshadowing just about everything else.
God bless Lyrics Born. In 2010, the Berkeley native is still up to his old hip-hop classicist tricks, still shooting nothing but good vibes, still dodging Parental Advisory labels as if Tipper Gore even matters anymore. He has no axe to grind, thank the Lord, so there’s no side of sour grapes ‘real hip hop’ posing served with his anachronism. But anachronism it is; when the rap mainstream is the perfect pop intersection of Lil Wayne’s crunk mania and Kanye West’s digital soul, is this brand of recourse to brasher, simpler times really all that necessary? On As U Were, his third LP, Lyrics Born—née Tsutomu Shimura—sometimes makes a convincing case that it might be.
Lyrics Born has been around long enough, 20 years in fact, to have changed his style many times over, either gradually over the course of his many albums (solo or with Lateef as Latyrx) or with an about-face. Still, fans know that very little is going to change in Lyrics Born from one performance to another. His rapping style is always smooth and fluid (while still outré and passionate), his themes are usually overthrowing anyone who would disrespect him (or what he believes in), and fans know to expect a few spoken raps with virtually every track.