I’m not sure what exactly they do up there in Northern Cali, but whatever it is (especially in the Bay Area) it’s having some funkdafied results. Take the latest LP from Berkeley’s own Lyrics Born. As an original pioneer of the Solesides aesthetic, purveyor of general funkiness and gifted lyricist, LB was one half of the innovative duo (along with Lateef the Truth Speaker) known as Latyrx. In the late 90′s Latyrx released their eponymous debut, an organic, eclectic, electrified album which garnered them much respect and represented a new breed of the “Cali sound;” one that eschewed the gritty gangsta-ism so dominant from the left coast in favor of a more soulful sound that was more at home alongside groups like Freestyle Fellowship and The Pharcyde than N.W.A.
Later that Day is an excursion into the everyman’s day, with sidebars into the surreal landscape of some bugged out lyrics, all against a backdrop of tracks that are (at times) as comparable to a Roots or an early Tribe album as they are to an old Commodores album. Through it all, Lyrics Born’s one of a kind gruff and grumble voice guides the listener through his soul-filled, stream-of-consciousness poetry, inflicting his perspectives with funk-drenched cadences. With darts of alliteration and rapid-fire, double-up style rhymes, LB hits some amazing points in his vocal deliveries while always managing to slip in clever jewels of wisdom through the use of his wordplay. His rhymes are sometimes playful, sometimes silly, sometimes sloppy, but always really goddamn funky. The first track; “Bad Dreams” is an anthem of the everyday that is driven by a solid rock beat with some deep, deep bass and a hook that sticks in your head like peanut butter does to the roof of your mouth. It’s chunky. “Callin’ Out” is guaranteed to get them asses shakin’ out on the dancefloor with its thump-and-grind rhythm, as is the almost live-sounding, disco-bastardized: “Do That There” which enlists the formidable work of Cut Chemist from Jurassic 5. “Pack Up” is about the only track that comes anywhere near “regular” hip hop, both in sound and in lyrics. Some straight boom-bap drums lay the foundation for a rock guitar loop as LB takes aim at the surplus of neophyte rappers who just don’t have the skills to bring it. As the hook states; “some things is scared, I don’t play with my stage or my audience.” “Last Trumpet” teams up Born and his old counterpart Lateef for some vintage, Latyrx-style tag team fusion and it is one of the highlights of the record. It’s a hectic, raucous song that takes its energy and builds and builds itself to inevitable explosion. Both spit so many intricate, socially conscious lines that they’ll have you rewinding like HG Welles just to figure out what the hell they are saying. Towards the end of the album, Lyrics Born veers off into territories unknown with some real trippin’ joints that are perfect for that end-of-the-blunt; swill of the 40 haze that should settle in just as you reach “Love Me So Bad” (which features the ethereal vocals of Joyo Velarde of “Balcony Beach” fame). From there on the shit gets weird.
Most of the production duties are handled very capably by LB himself and are perfectly crafted to fit his organic style. The tracks range from grainy, elctro-funkrock to schizophrenic dancehall rhythms to stuff that is just plain indescribable. Lyrics Born is not afraid to go really “out there” with both his beats and his rhymes, and his bravery is rewarded with an album’s worth of dynamic, soulful music that is perfectly complemented by his abstract lines. Later That Day is not your typical hip hop (nor is it for the typical hip hop listener), but it manages to capture that gray middle ground between bangin’ and experimental (which is the scariest term in all of hip hop) perfectly.
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