Lyrics Born: Same !@#$ Different Day

[18 April 2005]

By Dave Dierksen

Anyone near a TV over the last year has probably seen the Diet Coke commercial featuring Adrien Brody bouncing up and down a neighborhood street. You can be sure as shit that it wasn’t the soda pop putting the spring in his step. Nah, the credit goes to Lyrics Born. “Callin’ Out”, the single from his 2003 solo debut Later That Day, was so goddamn rockin’ that it almost single-handedly overshadowed the unfortunate reality of Lyrics Born’s debut—Later That Day was kind of a downer. Songs about being broke, paying taxes, failed relationships and telemarketers, among other daily banalities, could be forgiven had the beats risen to the challenge. Seriously, even Lyrics Born’s vocal partner-in-crime Joyo Velarde was telling him to quit bitching by the end of it all (“Stop Complaining”). Perhaps the most telling feature was that on a record largely produced by Lyrics Born himself, the cuts that bumped most furiously were laid down by Cut Chemist (“Do That There”) and DJ D Sharp (“Pack Up”).

This is why we should rejoice that a year and a half later, he brings us Same !@#$ Different Day, a remix record of sorts. We all know that nine times out of 10, even when a remix rates above par, it’s rare that it ends up improving on the original. Too often, once the original artist’s vision has been bent, broken, and pieced back together to conform to a new producer’s vision, it’s lost a bit of its soul.

But on Same !@#$ Different Day, the vision still belongs to Lyrics Born; he’s just tapped into the Quannum spirit of collaboration, and the results have him dancing outside the box. Some tracks come out sounding so differently from their predecessors that it hardly qualifies as the “same shit”.

Take opener “Hello”; in a nice tip of the hat to thematic continuity, Lyrics Born kicks the record off with the track that closed Later That Day. Whereas the original was mischievous and sneaky, the Jumbo-produced remix is an extroverted disco party track, and it sets the tone for the whole record. Get ready to put your hands in the air and wave ‘em. Rife with moving slap bass, horns and soul melodies, Same !@#$ Different Day is as much a ‘70s funk record as it is hip-hop, and the results are immediately uplifting. This time, he got it right.

The aforementioned “Pack Up” and “Do That There”, pop up at the beginning of the record and are given the complete musical and lyrical overhaul, with KRS-One and Dilated People’s Evidence trading rhymes on the former while Young Einstein adds a speedy, staccato bass line to improve Cut Chemist’s original beats on the latter.

New track “I’m Just Raw”, produced by the ubiquitous Dan the Automator, gives Lyrics Born the chance to do what he does best—egotistical self-affirmation. Using Al Franken’s old Stuart Smalley character (”... and goshdarnit, people like me”) as inspiration, he slags his competitors, but the braggadocio is still playful enough to remain affable.

On “Shake It Off (Bad Dreams Part II)”, he stops wallowing in the cynicism of the original “Bad Dreams” and uses the negativity as fuel. The result is fast, furious, and funky—positivity through defiance.

At the back end of the record, Lyrics Born tones the party down on three new, chilled tracks. The first, “Over You”, sees him slink into Barry White territory, with the MC playing the hunter to Joyo Velarde’s sexual prey. While the metaphor is borderline sinister, this jam drips with atmosphere, stirring the inner pimp in even the most chaste of listeners. The track leads into “I Can’t Wait For Your Love”, a mature take on male/female relationship quandaries. “The Bay” is primed for the filmed slow motion saunter of a cinematic badass, a summer jam dedicated to LB’s Cali home base.

If the record has any weaknesses, it’s in the few instances when it slides into remix cruise control. “The Last Trumpet” was a great dancehall track on Later That Day, and while the Halou remix here is still good, it doesn’t significantly enhance the original. Similarly, the “Callin’ Out” remix is pretty much the same old groove with E-40 and Casual handling vocal duties on the first two verses, neither of which compare to Lyrics Born’s new lyrics on the third. Older track “I Changed My Mind”, which already exists in several incarnations, is represented twice, and while the Stereo MCs’ take fits nicely into the ‘70s theme of the record, the DJ Spinna mix that closes the record feels like needless filler on a record with an already robust track listing.

These few setbacks aside, Same !@#$ Different Day is the record you pump through your speakers before hitting the town. There is no better way to temporarily escape from the problems associated with your current time, place, and situation. There is no way to listen without feeling immediately cooler. This is the sound of soul, and it’s what’s been missing for far too long in hip-hop.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/lyricsborn-same/