Lyrics Born: Everything I Am

From protests and rallies to petitions and marches, Berkeley has been the nation’s epicenter for change and revolution since the ‘60s. While enthusiasts and purists alike stress that the music industry needs its own revolution, one Berkeley artist isn’t interested in talking about this need for change. Following in the footsteps of so many great […]

From protests and rallies to petitions and marches, Berkeley has been the nation’s epicenter for change and revolution since the ‘60s. While enthusiasts and purists alike stress that the music industry needs its own revolution, one Berkeley artist isn’t interested in talking about this need for change. Following in the footsteps of so many great revolutionaries, Tom “Lyrics Born” Shimura is more concerned with continuing the personal change that comes with constantly finding new ways to challenge himself. On April 22nd, Lyrics Born will release Everywhere At Once, his highly anticipated follow up to Overnight Encore. Recently LB spoke on how his role as a producer has evolved, the importance of touring, and the ingredients for creating revolutionary art that works on many Describe what the last three years of your life has been like leading up to this highly anticipated follow up project?Lyrics Born: It’s been crazy. I try to make it a point to put out a project every 18 months. That’s how I did Later That Day, Same Sh*t Different Day, and Overnight Encore. Here we are 18 months after that with Everywhere At Once. In between it has just been night and day. The title of the album perfectly describes life right now. I am everywhere at once. It is a much different story than when I was doing my Latryx albums or my solo stuff just because of the way my career has changed. I am doing 150 shows a year. The industry has changed. It is a really interesting time to be an artist. We live in a time where we have instant access and 24 hour visibility. With record sales declining do you think it is even more vital to have the element of the live show?Lyrics Born: I think so, but as a result of that, regardless of genre, you have a lot of groups out on the road that have no business being on the road. I am not talking just Hip-Hop; I am speaking of all genres. The way things are now, you have to be the best. You have to come out with the attitude of ‘f**k this s**t. People are going to pay attention to what I am doing beyond what everyone else is doing.’ I have to raise the bar because the competition is so steep. I put a 1000 percent into my shows. Anything I can do, I go all out. If I do that, I can honestly say that there is no where else in the world that you can get an album like this. I know that I go the distance. They expect me to be consistently unpredictable and I am not going to let us down. I can’t half ass anything; nobody can afford to in today’s This fall you are going to be embarking on a world tour to support this project. Is that something you are already looking forward to and gearing yourself up for?Lyrics Born: Oh yea. I love touring. I love performing. It does take a tremendous amount of preparation, and I am preparing now. We are going to play five different continents and it is going to be crazy. One of your upcoming shows at the Auditorium Shores with Talib Kweli, Jean Grae, and Ice Cube. Will this be your first time performing with Ice Cube and is this something you have been looking forward to?Lyrics Born: Definitely. Yes, it is funny because I am friends with a producer who actually works with Cube. Cube is the man, a legend, and an icon. I hope I get a chance to just pick his brain. You stated on LBTV that this project was all about you being the best songwriter. Would you say that this is the biggest difference between this project and your previous projects?Lyrics Born: Absolutely. My previous projects were like chapters, a series. Since they were my debut as a solo artist, the only thing on my mind was I had to let the people know that I can rap and I can produce. Once you do that and get that out of your system, now you have to be able to write songs. There are a lot of guys who can freestyle but can’t write a rap to save their lives. There are a lot of guys who can write raps but can’t write hooks. There are a lot of guys who can write hooks but can write albums. The new challenge for me became for me to produce the best songs. It’s not about writing the best raps that will rip an Mc’s head off. In order for me to leave a legacy I knew I would have to write great songs and albums, so the criteria changed a bit for me as to what constitutes a great album. The point for me isn’t to serve my ego as an MC but to serve history as a song writer. That was the shift that I made on this album. It is by far my best and most personal album, but it is also my most accessible. You’ve stated before that you wrote the lyrics to all of the songs before you had the music and that you would go in the booth and beatbox the baseline or hum the beat that you had in your mind. How close were you able to match up the music that you had envisioned when you laid the beatbox to when you brought in the musicians?Lyrics Born: When I go in there and skat a vocal, beatbox the rhythm or hum a melody and there is no real words, that is really a skeleton. Then I get the guys to play the stuff and you really have to be open to interpretation from there. Sometimes it was very spot on to what I thought about other times it went into a totally different direction. You have to be open to the idea that however it turns out that was the right way all along. It is sort of like when you are writing a story. You initially know how you want the plot to go, but as you are writing it goes in different directions and that is art. You have to roll with it and let things Watching those making of videos for this album, you clearly are very vocal of how you want the album to come together. You describe a producer as someone who coordinates and manages the project. Since you have such a great attention to detail, have you have thought of scoring a film?Lyrics Born: I do want to do that at some point. I look at a producer in the Gamble and Huff way or the Berry White way or the James Brown way. Today’s “Producer” is a guy who made a beat on his MPC or in Reason. The guy who is being called a producer might not ever meet the artist. That’s not what I do. At least not on this album, I am going to get in there with the horns section; I am going to get in there with the vocalists, the drummers, the bass player, the strings that to me is production. Doctor Dre is a producer. Rick Rubin is a producer. It doesn’t mean that you wrote every single note, but you were able to bring all of these pieces to get together and shape something out of all of these moving parts. There are different methods for everything, and I think that one of the things that have made hip-hop so unique is that you can have 10 different producers on an album. My whole goal in life is I want to be inspiring and in order for that to happen I have to be inspired myself, so I have to continue to challenge myself and making this shift in being a producer is just one of those challenges. In my previous records, it was just me in my home studio, my MPC, and a gang of records. That’s cool, but I had already done that. Do you think this evolution of Hip-Hop becoming more musical is its next phase?Lyrics Born: Well I do think you are already seeing that. Hip-hop has moved into this pop category. What I hear what Timbaland,, or Dr. Dre is doing, that is crazy  musical. It’s very well written, and it is still really hard. I do see it happening and I do not think it is any coincidence that the biggest producers are the ones going in that direction. Do you foresee yourself producing an album for someone else in the fashion you did this album?Lyrics Born: Yeah I already did. I did Joyo Velarde’s album. I didn’t produce the whole thing, but I did half and I did it like this. It’s sick. It is just so soulful. It’s that Aretha soulful singer/songwriter style. It ranges from classic soul to more contemporary, from ballads to up-tempo. I think its going to surprise a lot of people.  I want to exist in every genre and producing albums like this allows me to do that. That’s why you have so many different styles on Everywhere At Once. Do you feel Hip-Hop fans are sometimes too narrow minded to accept live instrumentation on a Hip-Hop album?Lyrics Born: Yes, you will always have purists, but I can’t be sandbagged by anyone’s ideas. I refuse to let anyone’s ideas of what I am doing dictate what I am doing. You can’t grow like that. I could easily plant my feet in the sand and say ‘f**k this. 92 never stopped.’ Regardless of how I feel about the situation, the world is going to keep turning. I decided early on that I am not going to think about yesterday but just focus on tomorrow. You can’t make tomorrow’s music faces yesterday’s criteria. I am only focused on advancement. I look at this way, 10 years from now I am going to be looking back at 2008 and say those were the days. It seems like you address that on “The World Is Calling”. You seem to be addressing a lot of the naysayers that you have encountered over the years and your evolution as an artist.Lyrics Born: I am glad you noticed that. You know that theme is kind of prevalent on a lot of the songs on the album. It wasn’t lost on me that when I was making the album, I turned around and saw that I was one of the last cats standing. Even when it is so competitive and everyone has a movement, my career continues to grow. I realize how blessed I am. That voice I always listened to was right because here I am, and a lot of the guys that I came up with are not. I don’t like to see that. It is just an observation. Everything doesn’t always happen on your time. It happens on God’s time, which is the right time. In a lot of ways that is what this album is a testament too. Going back to idea of how everything is very calculated on this album. I was wondering if that was also reflected in the guest appearances. For instance, when you were planning “Hott 2 Deff” did you envision Chali 2Na would be the MC to ride the track with you?Lyrics Born: No. I made the track, and I put down the two verses and because the style of the verses was the same, I thought it might feel a little repetitive if I did another verse. I felt that the song needed another voice. I wanted it to be consistent with the verses I laid down, so I thought about who would sound good over this type of up-tempo, party track. If I gave them a cadence, who can technically pull this off. A lot of rappers are one trick. They can only do one thing. When I thought about it like that, Chali 2Na was the obvious choice. “Do You Buy It” is a really interesting track because it tackles Global warming, painkillers, and the war on terrorism, but it is a joint that just makes you want to dance. How are you able to balance these seemingly opposing forces?Lyrics Born: You know to me the most powerful art and statements are ones that exist on a variety of levels. You catch more with honey than you do with vinegar. I feel like stand up comedians are the best activists at this point in our history. I think they are most influential social activists today. When I hear Dave Chappelle l or Richard Pryor, their social commentary is so easy to digest because it is funny. It makes it deep. If I have something very serious to say, I am going to go the exact opposite route. I might make it danceable, deliver it in a funny way, or both. Some people might listen to the song and not even catch what I am talking about, but it is still dancey and fun to listen too and that’s fine because that is another component of that song. The best art functions of on a variety of levels, which is why I love Eminem so much. He is a great rapper, and he is funny but some of the s**t he talks about is f**king tragic if you think about it.