When it comes to late ‘90s independent hip-hop, Lyrics Born is one of the most notable figures. He was a founding member of the legendary Bay Area Solesides Crew along with DJ Shadow, Blackalicious and Lateef. Several 12” singles on the independent Solesides label led to the creation of what would later be called the Quannum Crew — members of which made an indelible mark on a prolific epoch in hip-hop music. DJ Shadow went on to produce Entroducing, a definitive instrumental record, Blackalicious became a respected duo in the genre, and Lyrics Born teamed up with Lateef to form the duo Latyrx, who produced mind-bending and ground-breaking tracks.
The first full-length Latryx release, simply titled The Album, is in my top-ten favorite hip-hop albums. Lyrics Born has since recorded several solid solo albums, which are much more musically eclectic — hybrids of funk, soul, hip-hop and ‘80s pop. It’s a mixture that’s impossible to define, but the ways that he pushes boundaries speak to his artistry.
Xpress caught up with Lyrics Born to get his thoughts on the Bay Area, the Quannum Crew and the state of hip-hop.
Coming from the Bay Area, what hip-hop artists from that region were an inspiration to you coming up?
Definitely Too Short, E40, Mac Mill, Dan the Automator, Anticon, Hieroglyphics, The Coup, QBert … Guys like that. It’s crazy, the guys who put the Bay on the map are still the ones carrying on to this day. I was also inspired by historic Bay Area artists like Sly, Tower of Power, Fogerty, Sheila E., etc. Some of my favorite Bay Area artists now are Kasabian, Lil B, Zion I, Jacka, Mistah Fab, Trackademicks, Honor roll, Cataracs, Wallpaper, etc. …
How did the Quannum Crew, originally called the Solesides Crew, come together?
We all met in college [at University of California Davis]. We congregated at the college radio station, KDVS, and were brought together by the great Jeff Chang. He suggested we pool our money and make a 12" single. The rest is history.
Lateef had some solid guest appearances on your most recent solo album, As U Were. Are there any plans for Latyrx to come back together and record an album?
We're in the studio. That's all I can say at this moment. Stay tuned…
It seems to me that many of your solo records are more musically eclectic in nature and less strictly hip-hop. Was this a conscious move for you, or more of a natural progression in your music?
I think both. I always felt like hip-hop could go further. As I took it there, I started to feel like music in general could go further. I'm an experimentalist and tinkerer by nature with an insatiable curiosity, and I absolutely love to try new things. Not just in music, but in life in general. I had ADD before they had a name for it, and I love every minute of it.
There was a big wave of underground and conscious hip-hop that came out in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. It seems to me that has slowed down in the last 10 years. Do you have any insight on this?
I've noticed that too. All of a sudden there stopped being less and less new blood in that realm of hip-hop. It’s not an unusual story in music: a genre that was once underground and rebellious catches on for that reason, becomes commercially viable and universal, and subsequent generations follow that path. I'm not mad at it at all. We have to accept that change occurs. Whether certain fans and artists embrace that change, well, that’s a personal choice, but it will happen regardless of your preference. Personally, I'm trying to be a part of that progression. "Why bring something back when you can push it forward?" is my motto.
— Par is a DJ, music promoter and freelance writer in Asheville
who: Lyrics Born
what: one of independent hip-hop’s finest
where: Pisgah Brewing Company, 150 East Side Dr., Black Mountain (Doors 8:30 p.m./Show 9:30 p.m. Ladies $10, others $15 / $17. pisgahbrewing.com)
when: Saturday April 2