“What have I not done yet?” It’s the question that drives Lyrics Born to create something new and unique every time he starts work on an album or tour. Born in Tokyo, but having spent the majority of his life in California, Lyrics Born has been associated with Hip-Hop heavyweights Quannum since they were a fledgling outfit calling themselves Solesides. As the label has grown so has Lyrics Born and in April he’ll be releasing his latest effort, Everywhere at Once. This week RapReviews caught up with him to find out more about the project, why he felt now was the perfect time to reveal a little more of his soul to listeners, and how he came up with his “what have I not done yet” way of living.

Adam Bernard: Let’s start out with your history. Why did you first pick up a microphone and has that reasoning changed over the years?
Lyrics Born: I probably wrote my first rap in like the fourth or fifth grade. It was actually pretty bad, but I get a pass because of being in the fourth grade. Then it just progressed from there. I kept going, kept writing and then finally in the 90’s I put out my first singles. As those started to take off and get radio play I moved on to albums. I still love it as much as I used to. I’m much better at it now, obviously, than I was back then. I’m a world class artist at this point, I tour the world, I’ve sold a fair amount of records, my songs get played on the radio, it’s just different now. I have a career. It’s not like five guys rapping in the basement anymore. It’s definitely a full time job now and it’s worlds apart from when I first started out when I was like ten.

AB: With a name like Lyrics Born most would expect to hear minimalist beats so that every single one of your words could be heard. With your upcoming effort, Everywhere at Once, however, you’ve chosen to go an extremely funky route. What went into your decision to create a more funk based album?
LB: Well, from my perspective it’s what I’ve always done, I just wanted to do it differently this time around. Since touring so much and Same Shit Different Day and Later That Day, I was able to see what my strengths were and what people liked about what it was that I did and I really just tried to play to my strengths on this album. For me it’s gotta be enjoyable all the way through. I’m not the type of artist that’s gonna give you a couple singles and that’s pretty much it. It’s gotta be listenable and it’s gotta be fun, yet it still has to work on a variety of levels. It can’t just be a one dimensional piece of work because that’s boring. That’s boring for me and it’s boring for the listener. Also, I got a little more personal on this album than I had on my last couple.

“I think that even the people that buy my records, they probably don’t know a lot about me just in terms of my life story…”

AB: I was going to say, the last couple tracks seem like they’re coming straight from the soul.
LB: Yes, without a doubt, because I think a lot of people know my work, but I think that even the people that buy my records, they probably don’t know a lot about me just in terms of my life story and those kinds of things and the challenges and the victories that I’ve had personally. As a fan of music I always like when artists do that because then you feel like you know that artist and you have a personal connection, you’re like hey man, that’s my guy, or hey man, that’s my girl, so I definitely wanted to give people that. It’s like this, I feel that life is really short and a lot of times I feel like I’m in a grocery store and I have one hour to get all my shopping done. I’m just flying down every aisle and tipping everything into the basket. That’s really what I’m trying to do. I just want to get out everything that I have in me with every album.

AB: Was that it all along, or is now just the perfect time to start revealing yourself more to your fans?
LB: Well, both. Now is the perfect time to reveal it. I think with every album I’m trying to do new things, things that I haven’t done before and/or things that nobody else has done before. I think that, obviously, we’re living in a different era now from when the peers that I looked up to were making records and I love the challenge. It’s definitely an uphill battle given the way the industry is right now and the music world is so diverse. It’s a challenging work environment for today’s artists, but I love it. I love being able to go out there and exceed people’s expectations and defy the limitations that people have put on me and take the music further than its ever gone before and take people places that they’ve never been before. That’s really the whole point. That’s what drives me. That’s what excites me, doing new shit. Yeah, OK, the money’s good and that’s great and everything, but really what I live for is going into new territory, achieving new heights, that’s really what I try to do.

AB: Do you feel this is going to take some of your listeners by surprise?
LB: I hope so. I hope it does. I hope it takes people by surprise. I don’t ever want to be in a situation where you feel like you know what I’m about to do. That’s the whole point. That’s what keeps it exciting. People expect that from me. They expect me to keep them on their toes. People expect me to be consistently unpredictable and I’m not gonna let them down. I get bored really easily. I can’t write an album of 15 of the same songs, or 15 of the same songs that I did on the last album. That’s not what makes me tick. My goal is to enter into uncharted territory. Every time I make a record I sit back and I ask myself “what is it out there that people are not doing? What is it out there that people are not hearing?” And I put myself there. The thing is the world already has a Kanye West, the world already had a Kool G Rap and a Rakim, and those artists will tell you the same thing, they’re not doing anybody a service by doing what somebody else is doing. So if my goal is to add on and to build on to this legacy of music then I have to do my thing.

AB: I definitely feel what you’re saying. I was having a conversation with a couple artists and writers that I hang out with just the other day about how now is such a great time for Hip-Hop and rap music because there’s no dominating force, so there’s a perfect opportunity for someone to jump in there and start whatever the next thing, or sound, will be.
LB: To start the next thing, or define what the thing is, now more than ever you just have to be the best. You have to do your absolute best because, especially at this point in music history, the world does not owe anybody a living, so really you are going to be out there judged solely on your merit and what you leave out there on the field. The industry is not going to support you. Your budget is not going to support you. You really have to get out there and make it happen with the best music and being the best person you can be, and that’s all there is to it. Me being an independent artist my whole life, I’m used to that. I’m used to swimming upstream, so it’s nothing new to me. It gets to the point where if you’re like me you thrive on it. You need people to tell you that you can’t do certain shit. You need people to say “what is he gonna do next?” That’s the energy that I thrive on. I don’t ever want people to think “well, he’s gonna rest on his laurels,” or “he’s made records for X amount of years, so he doesn’t have anything else to say.” I want people to be wondering what it is that I’m going to do and how it’s gonna fit into the big picture of music as it is now.

“Right now there are only a couple of groups out there that perform with a live band, so let me go out [and] be the absolute best at it.”

AB: I saw and heard some of those new things you’re doing, including performing with a full band, a few months ago when you were on tour with my girl Rue Melo. What do you feel stands to be gained by performing with a band?
LB: For me it’s just evolution. I looked at it and at the time I was like “what are people not doing?” I said, OK, right now there are only a couple of groups out there that perform with a live band, so let me go out here and be the absolute best at it. Obviously I’ve worked with DJs for years, and I still do. Both mediums have their pros and cons, their strengths and their weaknesses, but for me, again, it’s like my overall philosophy – what have I not done yet? That was something that I hadn’t done at that point and I needed it. It helped me to become a better producer, it helped me become a better artist, it helped me become a better leader and really, it’s helped me grow.

AB: So if the case is you always want to do something you’ve never done is a polka album in your future?
LB: A polka album? If it’s funky.

AB: Are we going to crank dat Lyrics Born?
LB: {*laughing*} You never know, man.

AB: At the show I noticed your Asian fan base is huge. Other than being Asian yourself is there any other reason you feel the Asian community has latched on to you so tightly?
LB: The quality of the music and the fact that as long as we know that we are out there we will support each other. That’s important to mention. You gotta understand, for the Asian-American community we have very few people in the public eye. We have very few people that are visible in the entertainment business. I could watch TV, and I got satellite, man, and I could watch TV for 24 hours a day and I could probably count on one hand the number of us that show up on the screen.

“So for me to come out it’s a huge blessing and it means a lot to me and it means a lot to other people.”

AB: And half of them will probably be a stereotype, as well.
LB: Yeah, that’s not unusual either. So for me to come out it’s a huge blessing and it means a lot to me and it means a lot to other people, as it should because it’s very difficult, it’s not an easy industry and I’m lucky because I really have the support of my peers on every level and I have the support of the industry for the most part.

AB: Finally, complete this sentence: With Lyrics Born people get…
LB: The truth.