I’ll let you all in on a little secret – I love hot food. Whether it’s jalapeÃ±os, Mrs. Renfro’s Green Salsa or just a box of Hot Tamales candy, you can’t beat the heat. I’m not one of those gluttons for pain that wants to end up in a hospital or have a product that’s so far off the Scoville scale you can’t taste the food, but a good sweat while eating is nothing to be ashamed of either. Some people don’t like Thai food or authentic Mexican style cuisine, but I say bring it on. Variety is the spice of life, and spice is the the fuel that sometimes brings the fire along for the ride.
Lyrics Born is a conniseur of the hot too, although in his case the flavors he savors are hot beats and hot rhymes. Born in Tokyo and raised in California, Tom Shimura was destined for a career repping in one of rap’s all-time hottest crews. By virtue of being a freshman at the University of California in Davis, Shimura linked up with the founders of the seminal Solesides record label at the school’s college radio station. It was and still is an awe-inspiring group of talent that included rappers Gift of Gab and Lateef the Truthspeaker and producers Chief Xcel and DJ Shadow. Shimura rapped under the moniker Asia Born and guested on many Solesides projects before a name change to Lyrics Born and partnering with Lateef for the underground classic “Latyrx.” Eventually SoleSides dissolved, causing worry among many heads who had closely followed their amazing string of underground albums and singles, but out of the ashes the phoenix known as Quannum Projects was born, carrying all of the former SoleSides artists upward in the process.
Besides Blackalicious frontman Gift of Gab, Lyrics Born can be said to be the most prolific lyrical member of the Quannum crew. Counting the Lateef duet and 2003’s solo joint “Later That Day,” Lyrics Born’s “Same Shit Different Day” is his third full-length album. That may not seem like a lot at first until you consider Gab kept heads waiting for five years after his group’s “Melodica” EP until they put out a full album and he’s still #1 in terms of rhymes given both his more proactive output in the 21st century and numerous guest appearances. Lyrics Born is not far behind though in either category and truly lives up to his name. His rhymes are not careless throwaway thoughts or aborted ideas; they are impregnated and nurtured until they give birth to timeless songs. As such it’s not at all unfair of him to revisit the well-crafted work on his debut album here. “Same Shit Different Day” is ostensibly remixes of those old songs, with some new material and new guest artists mixed in for extra boldness and heat. This is not reheated microwave leftovers people; in fact if you weren’t familiar with Born before now you’d be hard-pressed to know this wasn’t new shit by just listening to it.
The song titles reveal what the songs themselves do not. The album opens with brand new versions of “Hello” and “Pack Up” from his last LP, in each case with a fresh new arrangement courtesy Jumbo of the Lifesavas. The beat on the latter is so hard and pounding you would think Evidence did it, but instead he and KRS-One are providing guest vocals. Say what – Evidence, KRS-One, and Lyrics Born all on one track? Even Gwen Stefani would say this shit is bananas!
Evidence: “Of course I talk about myself in third person
Long overdue, set to blow, for certain
Three LP’s under Capitol regime
‘Platform,’ ‘Neighborhood Watch,’ ‘Expansion Team’
L.A.’s finest, opening shows, some headlining
Sometimes it’s meet’n’greet or in-store signings
A lot of cats claiming pro game are amateurs
It ain’t a good look dog, your hype man’s your manager!”
Lyrics Born: “You know the voice soon as you hear it
Name is Lyrics Born from the legendary crew Latyrx
Pump fear inside your heart until your face is transparent
Type of terror that your children will inherit; you seen a paranormal spirit
Paranoid, I’m a crazy-ass Iroquois
Breakin five-star generals down to errand boys
Claim your territory, redistribute it among, we who
contributed to, this country, we livin in
Cause, these percentages that, we been given
ain’t hardly indicative, of what we, put into it
So believe me peasants you in the presence of excellence
Lyrics Born, KRS-One and Evidence”
KRS-One: “Runnin through that, where my crew at?
We the best live MC’s in the world, but you already knew dat
Who dat? KRS ONE ONE ONE
Got you whack-ass rappers yellin RUN, RUN.. RUN!
Yo son, hold your horses
Retreat from the streets and count your losses
We teach hip-hop courses constantly
At the university, givin ‘My Philosophy'”
Personally this song alone would have been worth the price of admission, but there are 13 more tracks after this one and almost an hour’s worth of material in total. Each time you think you’ve gotten a taste of what’s going to be your favorite, the next song attempts to sway your opinion. The brand new “I’m Just Raw” with a laid back but hella swingin Dan the Automator beat is not only extra fresh but shows off Born’s humor with the chorus “I’m hotter than you, more popular than you, more clever than you and GOSH DARN IT people like me” a la Stuart Smalley. When you’re set on that as a favorite, the Stereo MC’s remix of “I Changed My Mind” comes along to knock it out the box. Before the dust even settles on that decision you have to revise it again for the self-produced “Shake it Off (Bad Dreams Part II)” with it’s dirt-nasty funk flow and crooning of Lyrics Born. You might be skeptical of hearing the dirty deep voice of Shimura reading this, but that only means you never heard the original “I Changed My Mind” dunn – he’s got SKILLS when he sings – GangStarr’s Guru should take notes here on how it should be done. Then things get fresh with a “Halou Remix” of the “The Last Trumpet” that links Born up with DJ Shadow and Lateef for hip-hop bliss.
Ready to settle? Forget about it. You’d be overlooking “I Can’t Wait for Your Love (Limited Time Offer)” featuring Joyo Velarde with her own excellent crooning, linked together with a sultry Chief Xcel beat. If you stopped there though you’d miss the West coast all-star “Callin’ Out” remix featuring Casual and E-40. Too bad I already quoted Gwen Stefani, her hokey rap song’s catchphrase is just as easily applicable here. Even after the official “end” of the album comes two more jams: a Morcheeba “Stop Complaining” remix and a DJ Spinna “I Changed My Mind” remix. HOT DAMN! Even though I normally hand out perfect 10 scores once in a blue moon and that solar event happened last week on Opio’s “Triangulation Station” it’s hard not to offer the same advice twice. If the dopeness of the aforementioned tracks wasn’t enough, “Same Shit Different Day” comes with a bonus DVD of Lyrics Born music videos and Quannum tour footage. Now come on, you just can’t beat that shit. The bottom line here is like the makers of those Hot Tamales candies say, great flavors aren’t made – they are Just Born.