Today hip hop functions less as definition of a genre, but is more like a seed which continuously germinates an array of unique artists and sounds. Lyrics Born is one such artist who has taken the seed of hip hop and cultivated it into his own distinct sound, as demonstrated on his newest release, Same Shit Different Day.
HHS: You just returned from Australia, how was that?
Lyrics Born: It was great.
HHS: What is the hip hop scene like there in comparison to here?
LB: Ahh man, it’s great. You know, they love hip hop over there, it’s unbelievable, I can’t really describe it to you, you know. I mean over there hip hop groups, whether you’re played on the radio or not it doesn’t matter. Well put it like this, my songs get played on the radio over there. “Callin’ Out” went to number one on commercial radio in the Bay, but it was number one in the whole country of Australia out there. It’s just a different scene.
HHS: How does it feel to be back in the Bay?
LB: Yea, it feels good you know, but I’m leaving again tomorrow I mean because I got this album coming out on April 26th. I mean I’m on the roll, grinding constantly, you know? I mean, shit, I’m booked clear through September.
HHS: I just moved from the Bay to LA, so I got a lot of love for the Bay. What influence do you think the Bay had on your style or sound?
LB: As you know from being in the Bay, it’s just it’s a real diverse place, you know what I mean? And it’s always been that way. And I think that’s why the musical tradition is so rich, you know, it’s varied. You know It’s not like that in New York or Los Angeles where you got the whole entertainment business is in those two cities. Where in the Bay Area, you don’t really have that, you have, if you wanna make records in the bay area, you gotta make your own you know. You got to be part of an independent label you kinda have to be resourceful, you know? And I think for that reason we have a lot more freedom. I think for that reason the music that we make is real varied. You got E-40 on the one hand, Too Short is from the bay, then you got Digital Underground, you know Hieroglyphics, Lyrics Born, Qbert, you know what I mean? And we all sound different. And we only live 10-15 minutes from each other. So you know that’s the whole thing, that’s the way the Bay is. And I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that when we were coming up, because there wasn’t a local industry and there weren’t a lot of records coming out of the Bay area in the early and late 90′s we got equal does of hip hop from all over the country. So we never were like ‘Oh nah we only listen to New York, or nah we only listen to LA, or we only listen to Houston or Miami.’ It came from all over, you know, we soaked it all up.
HHS: So you are basically saying that the Bay gave you an avenue to be creative.
LB:Yea, I mean, it’s less set in it’s own ways, you know what I mean? …Because it’s hard to really say ‘Oh that’s the Bay Area sound.’ You know It’s really hard to say that and I think that what that does is it allows the artist a lot of room to kinda define their own styles.
HHS: Speaking of definitions, hip hop is less of a definition anymore, and more of a seed in which other forms of itself are grown from. As an example, Abstract Rude calls his form “hip hop soul.” Do you call your sound something different or do you just categorize it under the broad umbrella of hip hop?
LB:I think that hip hop is so diverse now that you can say your music is hip hop and it could pretty much be anything, you know what I mean? Just like you said, I mean it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what hip hop is. It’s more like it’s a feeling, or an attitude, then it is a style of music anymore. It’s difficult.
HHS: So talking about your lyrics a little bit, your lyrics just don’t rhyme but you use assonance as a tool. How did you get into doing that?
LB: I just need the freedom to say what I need to say, you know what I mean and I can’t be bound by, you know, old standards. I really got to be able to do my thing. Thank you for picking up on that by the way. I really got to be able to nail it when I’m talking about something, you know what I mean, so I got to use whatever techniques are available.
HHS: Some of your songs are about real life, whereas some of your songs are fables, about minotaurs and riding around on catamarans. Where is the inspiration coming from?
LB: I try to get it from everywhere, you know. I try to live as much life as I can, you know. It’s difficult sometimes. you know the career and the job are so demanding but I try to live as much life as I can and I try to explore as much as I can.
HHS: Speaking of life, what has happened in your life since the release of LTD and the upcoming release of Same Shit?
LB: What’s happened in my life? I mean it’s just crazy. You know you don’t really have head space anymore for a lot things that you used to, you know? And It’s like suddenly your career has taken over your entire life, you know, which is good, that’s a choice on my behalf. I made a choice that if i was gonna do this for a living I was gonna go all out and try and take it as far as I could, you know. And when you do that, you give up a lot, you know what I mean, of your free time.
And I could say you know what? Nah, I’m not gonna tour for seven months out of the year, I’m not gonna tour at all…But that’s the choice that I made…
HHS: But it can’t be too bad because you are engaged to Joyo Velarde who is your vocalist, and she gets to tour with you right? So at least you get to tour with a loved one.
LB: That definitely makes it a lot easier, you know. I got guys in my band that are leaving girlfriends and wives and children behind and stuff like that. And I see what they go through, and I don’t have to go through that.
HHS: The remixes from the songs from LTD seem to have more of a baseline, more bump, is that due to the fact that you outsourced for production or is that a representation of a shift in your taste?
LB: I think that’s just my own taste, you know what i mean? I’m into grooves, I like grooves. All kinds of music, but you know I have a soft spot for good grooves. So any kind of groove you know is gonna be centered around a bump space, you know the rhythm. So I think it’s just personal taste.
HHS: The most surprising thing on the ablum, for me at least, was the collaborations that you did on two of the songs. First, on the Pack Up Remix you had Evidence and KRS-One on the same track. How did you hook up with them and then decide to put them on the same track?
LB: You know I’ve known Ev for years. I’ve known Evidence for a long time. And the original Pack Up was probably the most straight ahead hip hop song on my whole album, you know what I mean? So I figured if I was gonna do a remix of this song, I’m gonna go all out and just make it real hop hop. And you know, KRS-One has been, you know, a huge inspiration for me over the years, especially coming up as a young rapper, know what I mean? And I mean, when you think hip hop these days, you equate hip hop with KRS-One, you know what I mean?. And at the same time you know, you take a look around and you say okay, in that style, who’s carrying the torch now? And it’s not really hard to see Dilated Peoples image pop up into your mind when you see that. So you add that along with Jumbo, the Garbageman of Lifesavas, and if you know Jumbo he’s the exact same way. The guy is truly a physical embodiment of hip hop. You know, you put all those ingredients together, I mean, I knew I couldn’t lose. It was sick. That’s one of my favorite collaborations on the album.
HHS: Going back for a sec, you mentioned growing up. When you were growing up how did you decide to be an emcee? Or was it something that naturally happened?
LB: When I first came to California, you know I lived in Utah till I was 4 or 5 years old, and when I came to California it was like total culture shock, you now what I mean? And I’m out here at school, and I’m on the playground and I just hear all these little kids in kindergarten, like my age at the time, going ‘Hip Hop hippy to the hip, the hip hip, the hop.’ You know and I was like ‘Whoa! what the fuck is this?!’ You know what I mean? I was in a trance. One kid would start it off and the other kid would chime in like a couple bars later ‘chicken tastes like wood.’ You know and all that kinda shit and your just like whoa what is this? And it was like totally new, something I never heard before….So technically Rappers Delight was the first hip-hop song that I ever heard. But you know, I knew all the lyrics to the song you know, months before i actually heard the record…The way that i got initiated was just hearing kids sing it on the schoolyard. But not even hearing the record, I hadn’t even heard the record yet. And then when I heard the record I could see what it was all about. It was just totally new. And I thought, well shit if I can sing this from just hearing other kids sing it and not even hearing the record, I don’t have to take trumpet lessons, I don’t have to be classically trained on the piano. For me it was just something kinda I took to like a fish to water. And as time went on, as the music developed, I developed along with it, you know? And shit, something just came over me, you now what I mean. I just heard it and I was like shit this is something I can do. And do well. so that’s where that came from. But with all honesty I mean I always knew I was gonna be a performer. You know I knew even from a very early age I knew that my life’s work was gonna be dedicated to art and performing.
HHS: How did you know that?
LB: I just knew it. I just know it…The same way I know that I’m a man.
HHS: Ok, back to the collaborations. The other song that was surprising was the Callin Out Remix where you featured E-40 and Casual. And they are both well known Bay area emcee’s but definitely distinctly different from one another. You even said in your track ‘you thought we’d never make a track together.’ So how did that come together?
LB: Well that’s the whole point. The whole point of doing a remix is doing things that you wouldn’t normally do. Or you wouldn’t think to do you know, on the original version. The remix is where you say to yourself ‘OK I had my say,’ you know ‘now lets do something a little unexpected here,’ u know what I mean? That’s what the remix is for. I mean I wanna be able to tell people I did a remix with XYZ and have people to be shocked. And it’s difficult for people to do that today with all the collaborations, you know what I mean? And I think for me, coming form the genre that people think that I’m coming from, you know what I mean? When all I ever looked as it as was a musician trying to hook up with other good musicians and other creative people. You know I don’t look at E-40 any differently then the way I look at what I’m doing. So you know, Casual i’ve known for years, you know what I mean? But E-40 was definitely, he’s a icon in the Bay area. But even more so then that I think he’s a genius. He’s incredibly talented. You can’t tell me another person who’s as prolific, or instantly identifiable, and instantly distinguishable, and uncommonly characteristic as him, you know what I mean? So, that’s it.
HHS: In the track, I’m Just Raw, you talk about being better then others. But the hook is sort of a play of an SNL skit. So some of it seems serious, and some seems to be a joke, can you explain the message you’rr trying to get across?
LB: I’m just having fun, it is a joke. All that comes from being in high school and we use to cat, people call it charging the dozens, your mama jokes. That’s all that comes from. We used to do that shit all lunch period. That’s all that song comes from. That was an art in itself and it still is you know. And it’s just like rapping your trying to get a response from the people around you, you’re trying to be creative, and you’re trying to win, and that’s all that is.
HHS: In I Can’t Wait for Your Love, your very open about your relationship with Joyo. Most artists stray away from mentioning their relationships, why are you different about that topic?
LB: I think because it’s not just my relationship, I mean I think so rarely, I think we don’t celebrate relationships that actually work, you know? You got plenty of songs out there, you know, talking about how bad there man is or how bad there woman is. Which is fine, you know what I mean, there is definitely a place for all that. But you know, I think it’s important that we have a balance. You don’t want a person out there to get the impression that it’s hopeless, it’s not… Shit, I could write a hundred sons like that, you know. That song just wrote itself, I mean, you know.
HHS: Later That Day was critically acclaimed, people will probably want to know why mess with a good thing? Why should someone purchase Same Shit if they already copped LTD?
LB: It’s 10 songs ,and 5 new ones, 10 remixes and 5 new ones. And even for the remixes, I mean, we either did new music, new vocals, or both. The Pack Up Remix doesn’t sound anything like the old one, you know for instance. And you know it was something that I just wanted to do as continued growth for myself, you know what I mean? It’s fun to listen to. I really, you know, went the distance on it… I didn’t want to make just another shitty remix album out on the shelves, you know what I mean? I really made sure to focus and made sure that you would get something out of it different then you would out of the album album. It’s not as conceptual, it’s not as heady as the album is, you know what I mean? You know, I’m not trying to make a conceptual statement other then just let it go. I just hope it holds peoples attention, you know? And they walk away from it like ‘Damn!’ You know? There are still places we can go with this music…and there is still more to be built from it.
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