Bay Area rapper and Quannum Projects co-founder Lyrics Born, a.k.a. Tom Shimura, has a big, engaging personality, whether on wax — as with his new disc, Everywhere at Once — or on the phone. Noting that he reads most reviews of his albums, the personable LB was eager to give us his take on some recent write-ups:
As his latest solo LP's title suggests, Lyrics Born tries to move in countless directions; party-rocker, pensive MC, and lovestruck poet are just a few sides of this ambitious Bay Area act. And LB knows he's conflicted. Few hip-hoppers can go from dropping a dancehall-inspired number for the ladies ("Top Shelf") to a somber R&B-styled cut about racial identity ("Is It the Skin I'm in?"). And that's why Lyrics Born triumphs again. (XLR8R)
"Absolutely true. I always work really hard to be the most versatile cat in the game, and I'm glad they're able to recognize that. I mean, everybody's conflicted, and rather than me pretend like I'm not, I celebrate it. I'll eat totally organic for dinner, but then I'll have McDonald's for breakfast — that's just life, man."
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In many ways, the disc is a platform for the huge-voiced rapper to craft a public record outlining all the negatives he's toppled since his 2003 debut — from the fruitlessness of the touring hustle and the loss of a best friend to being stuffed "in a little itty bitty box" by critics. (Urb)
"I think they're right. The amount of physical, emotional, and spiritual wear-and-tear I've taken to get to this point and still be able to have the outlook I do — and to be blessed that my career is still growing 10-plus years later — I think I've earned the right to talk a little bit of shit. A lot of people may say, 'Oh, he's just talking a lot of shit about how hard he's worked and how great he is, and those are all hip-hop clichés.' Well, it's a little less cliché when you look out here and, you know, how many people like me are doing this in hip-hop? When you look at it from that lens, suddenly all my shit-talking takes on a new meaning . . . It was difficult for me growing up and not seeing any indication that if I pursued this that hey, I could do this. All I saw was Mr. Miyagi, or guys that wore little kung-fu suits, and I still fucking see that. It's kind of hard to explain that to people who don't live with that. And if you don't have that context, you're not gonna know that."
I think of Lyrics Born as the kind of guy I'd want to date my daughter (if I had one): His lyrics are intelligent and noble, but he still knows how to have fun and bring his music to a bounce. (Signal to Noise)
"I can't comment on the daughter part 'cause I'm married [laughs]. But the best songs, the best art, it works on a variety of levels. There are important things in the world that need to be discussed, but I still like to have a good time, and I like to have a good time discussing things that bother me."