And you thought you had to wait a long time for Dr. Dre to release Detox.
When Latyrx’s debut album dropped in 1997, the enigmatic disc contained a glorious meshing of backpack rap icons from all sides, creating a unique, hypnotic, yet very accessible sound that really doesn’t have much peer, especially when heard a decade and a half later. Latyrx was a combination of Lateef the Truth Speaker and Lyrics Born, two highly talented MCs who went on to release numerous attention-grabbing solo albums of their own. Yet here, with the Blackalicious crew and DJ Shadow creating unique atmospheres for the dual rappers to spar over, Latyrx’s lone outing become the stuff of wonders, with songs alternatively funny and poignant, some songs even featuring Lyrics Born and Lateef rapping simultaneously out of different stereo channels, making for quite the headrush. It was the stuff that indie-rap dreams were made of, but as each member’s solo careers burdeoned in different ways, Latyrx’s The Album was viewed simply as a one-off.
Thus, there was a great amount of surprise when it was announced that the guys were getting back together, and after physical proof of their reunited duo appeared in the form of 2012’s Disconnection EP, fans can now breath a heavy sigh of relief: the appropriately-titled The Second Album is finally here. What is immediately striking from the onset is the change in production, dropping the glorious indie haze of their debut release for a much more joyous, commercially accessible approach for The Second Album, which never feels cloying, largely because even after all these years, Lyrics Born and Lateef still sound completely at ease with each other’s flows, and the end result is truly a sight to behold.
As if that wasn’t amazing enough, you have yet to even read through the wild, funny, bluntly honest, and wildly entertaining 20 Questions
* * *
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Lateef: Being male in America, I repress all of my emotions, until finally reach a boiling point, and explode. Just kidding ... kind of. I am really enjoying reading Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath, and enjoyed Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country.
LB: I cried like a baby after Ryan Coogler’s film Fruitvale Station. He and Michael B. Jordan did such a great job humanizing Oscar Grant, a tragically iconic Bay Area figure. It was touching.
2. The fictional character most like you?
Lateef: James Bond. He’s the best at what he does, but no one seems to ever recognize.
LB: Ogami Itto, the father from Lone Wolf & Cub, but with a better sense of humor. And better fashion sense. And a better rapper. I feel like I’ve been chopping ‘em down for years. Now with my son in tow, I am really that dude.
3. The greatest album, ever?
Lateef: Arguable. Five way tie: The Beatles’ Abbey Road, Stevie Wonder’s Hotter Than July, Eric B. & Rakim’s Paid in Full, Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall and Thriller, Prince’s 1999. But seriously. There are so many.
LB: Eric B and Rakim’s Paid in Full. Transformed the way I felt about life.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Lateef: Neither. Firefly!
LB: Macross, MF! First interracial relationship on a cartoon I can remember.
5. Your ideal brain food?
Lateef: Any form of tactile reading (books, comics, newspaper, magazines, etc.).
LB: Love the newspaper. Remember those?
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
Lateef: The song (with Fatboy Slim) “Wonderful Night”. It is harder to write a pop song than most people think. I was able to do it without compromising myself at all. The song was also nominated for a Grammy.
LB: So far? Being able to show my son you can succeed at doing what you love, all the while looking like him, with a last name that ends in a vowel, and is hard to pronounce.
7. You want to be remembered for ... ?
Lateef: Like most artists, the best to ever do it. I definitely want people to remember me as an artist that took risks, was not afraid to grow, and made substantial contributions to music with his ideas- musically and lyrically.
LB: An artist that chose his own path, made a contribution to human history thru art, helped people with his art and influence, changed, re-defined, and expanded the perception and self-perception of Asian-Americans in popular ... and un-popular culture.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Lateef: Again, so many. Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Lambert Hendricks and Ross, Big Daddy Kane, Ice Cube, Too Short, Rakim, KRS 1, Michael Jackson, Prince, James Brown, The Beatles, U2, and on, and on ...
LB: James Brown and his flock, Curtis Mayfield, KRS-1, Justin Lin, Akira Kurosawa, Jack Soo, Jeff Chang, Bob Marley, Roger Lee, Charles and Ray Eames, Muhammad Ali, Alice Waters, Joseph Eichler, Bob Marley, Basquiat, Milo Baughman ...
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
Lateef: “Cloudburst” by Lambert Hendricks and Ross. When they did it. So far ahead of its time, I’m not sure we have caught up yet.
LB: “Genius of Love” by Tom Tom Club. I can relate to those who’ve had eccentric hits by coming in the side door.
10. Your hidden talents . . .?
Lateef: My imagination (maybe not so hidden), my cooking, Crossfit.
LB: Mediation & Instigation. I’ve diffused some pretty bitter disagreements. I’ve inspired a few as well.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Lateef: “The Music is great—but listen to the lyrics. The message is as important.”—My Father to me at age 3/4. I listened to nothing but lyrics for years afterwards. Memorized them crazy fast.
LB: “Do it all,” said JMD to a young Asia Born. He was an OG LA/Leimert Park legend, drummer, and bandleader for the Underground Railroad, Freestyle Fellowship’s original backing band. I’m almost there.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
Lateef: My Fiancées Heart. Stole it. I am not giving it back ... although we do share it.
LB: The hundreds of old records I “borrowed” from my old college radio station, KDVS, for continued education at home. They were, of course, returned. With interest, even. I donated many more than I “rented.” Honor among thieves, and all..
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?
Lateef: Gym clothes, honestly. Or anything at all, with a mic in my hand.
LB: “Japanese jeans, not a pair of Levi’s. Japanese genes, I am a phenom.” Free download on me if you can guess where that’s from.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Lateef: Bill Gates. He might be pretentious, but hopefully not too much so. I’d love to hear his ideas about how to make music profitable again.
LB:: James Brown. While I’m intimately familiar with what he’s accomplished, I’d like to hear about what he would’ve done differently.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
Lateef: The future. To see if they understood my stuff yet. *puts dollar in the d-bag jar*
LB: The future, without a doubt. You’ll never hear a person of color say, “Yeah baby, let’s go back to the ‘40s, MF! The good ol’ days!” Lol. But seriously, I want to go deeeeeep into the future. If the Ice Age killed the dinosaurs, and the climate change age does us in, what’s the next phase of life in the earth’s cycle once the planet’s corrected itself and all of our missteps? People are so egotistical to think there’s no future on earth without us. The planet’ll be here, baby, we won’t be. Lol.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
Lateef: Spa ... followed by sex. *puts another dollar in the d-bag jar*
LB: Vacay. I get ‘em a few times per decade. Sigh.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?
Lateef: Music. Easy.
LB: Art and Japanese Whiskey.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
Lateef: Bay Area. Again, Easy.
LB: Gotta agree with Lateef. Or Hawaii.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Lateef: Dog, you can’t get some guys from Silicon Valley to make your website? Come on!
LB: Dear POTUS with the Most-est: first of all, go all the way with your cut. Your fade is clean, but get lined up in the front, sides, and back, baby. I got a Vietnamese barber in the Town that can hook you up if they don’t have one on-site in the White House. Make you look bossy. Call that “Obama-Flair”. Also ... toot your own horn a lil’ bit, baby. Culturally you brought us into “Now”. You pulled us out of the recession, Iraq, Afghanistan. Repealed “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell”, found Bin Laden. Not super-feeling the drones, but like I said, come thru to the Bay, and we’ll show you how to really “ghost ride-the whip”, but with 0 casualties. And Obama-Care? I still believe, baby. No need to apologize, you just need a lil’ tech-support. Yet again, I got a Vietnamese patna in the Bay that’s on Best Buy’s Geek Squad by day, but by night Cuzzo can IT the shit outta any little website. DM me on Twitter and I’ll send you his math.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
Lateef: Ideas for my next project!
LB: I’m about 10 songs deep into my sixth Lyrics Born album. So far we’ve recorded it almost entirely in New Orleans featuring all NOLA guests, including Galactic, members of Rebirth Brass Band, and many, many more. Production duties handled by Grammy-nominated producers Ben Ellman (Trombone Shorty) and Rob Mercurio of Galactic. Fall ‘14, baby!
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong online. Please consider a donation to support our work as an independent publisher devoted to the arts and humanities. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where advertising no longer covers our costs. We need your help to keep PopMatters publishing. Thank you.