Let me begin by saying that I think that Lyrics Born is one of the finest rappers in the United States. Tom Shimura is a highly intelligent man with a relentless vocal attack and unparallelled breath control and vocabulary—more importantly, he has heart and soul for days. I have loved his previous records and his work with Latyrx and with Quannum’s other acts and his guest spots and, well, virtually everything.
That having been said, this live record is thoroughly unnecessary. There has never been any question about whether or not LB could bring it live; old-school dudes like him yearn to prove it onstage. This record documents recent concerts in two different Australian cities, and it just kind of reaffirms what we already knew. Yep, he’s good.
Just about all the big things from Later That Day… and Same !@#$ Different Day (itself pretty much a remake of the other one) are here, as well as older Quannum faves like “Lady Don’t Tek No”, the most pro-feminist song ever done by any male rapper (or any male artist, really). They are all done with a hot live band, which does as well with funk-metal jams as well as with ancient hip-hop riffs like “Funk You Up” and “The Message”. Lyrics Born is also backed by versatile singer and hype-woman Joyo Velarde. (She is also married to Shimura, but that is neither here nor there.)
Not to say this record doesn’t absolutely kick. Its production is crystal, with a huge low end and slamming drums. LB’s voice is about as clear as it can be, considering he is spitting syllables about as fast as anyone can spit. And the crowd is a huge factor, yelling choruses back and making the appropriate amount of “motherfuckin’ NOIZE!!!” as demanded.
Despite all this, however, this is only a good document of how good a rapper LB is. He rips faves like “Stop Complaining” and “Callin’ Out” and “I’m Just Raw” just the way you figure he would, he does a cool version of the Latyrx tune “Aim For the Flickering Flame”, just the way you figured he might. It’s awesome to hear this all, expecially considering his interplay with the rocking band. But it’s not very revelatory at all. (I also have a problem with him not including his greatest song, “I Changed My Mind”. But I’m not going to talk about that now.)
Luckily, this does not extend to the studio bonus tracks appended to the end of the disc. “Knock Knock” is a nice minimal bump where LB takes on a smooth whispering cadence, and “L-I-F-E” pulls in hyphy star Mistah FAB for a crunchy Trackadelicks number. I’m not sure we really needed another remix of “I’m Just Raw”, but it’s pretty great nonetheless, because it’s now a huge metal beast, with Del tha Funkee Homosapien kicking it off and LB’s labelmate Pigeon John getting off some nice lines, including a hilarious one about the butt of an American Idol winner.
Overall, yeah, this is a great CD and I’m glad I have it and I play it a lot. But I would rather that Lyrics Born just knuckled down and gave us another studio album, for chrissake. He’s sitting on one now, with a remix album and a live album—it’s time to get a little selfish, dude. Now that you’ve proven everything you need to prove, get thee to a studio and deliver us a stone cold eternal kill-em-all classic. Or two.