Hip-hop progresses deep into the 21st century with the arrival of Quannum Projects producer Lyrics Born's debut album Later That Day, an imaginative, future-looking, ass-quaking work of art. From the crew (once called Soulsides, now Quannum Projects) that first came together on the university campus in Davis, California, in the mid-'90s and went on to release groundbreaking work from DJ Shadow and Blackalicious, comes another in a line of topnotch releases that immediately sound significant.
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The elements that make Lyrics Born (born Tom Shimura) so compelling include his hip, husky voice; his girlfriend Joyo Velarde's soaring background vocals; the funk samples he arranges to sound more like fresh chord progression than repetitive loops; and his sometimes thoughtful, sometimes goofball rhymes, which tackle every subject -- or nothing at all.
"I listened to a lot of late 70s and early 80s funk when I made this record," says Shimura, "James Brown, Barry White, Earth, Wind & Fire, the Philly Sound, Maze and a lot of mid-'70s funky rock. Usually, when I sit down, the music comes first and depending on how the track comes out, that's going to determine what the song is going to be about. It's going to dictate the mood and mood generally dictates the subject matter. And once that's determined, I just try and be as honest as possible and get the point across as effectively as possible. Stop Complaining,' The Last Trumpet' and Rise and Shine' are very much everyday, life inspired songs."
Okay, so maybe it's not an everyday song, but "The Last Trumpet" is a post-9/11 protest song that's as abstract as it is activist. On the flip side comes "Bad Dream," a layered, moody workout about stress, the kind of exercise that is more the norm for Shimura.
However, like most other hip-hop releases in the era of CDs, Later That Day is too damn long, which places it on the thin line between a sprawling mess of well conceived ideas and an upscale masterpiece (see: All three Eminem records). How you perceive it may depend on your patience.