Reviewing the Reviewers

Bay Area rapper and Quannum Projects co-founder Lyrics Born, AKA Tom Shimura, has a big, engaging personality, whether on wax — as with his new disc, Everywhere at Once — or on the phone. Noting that he reads most reviews of his albums, the personable LB was eager to give us his take on some recent write-ups:

As his latest solo LP's title suggests, Lyrics Born tries to move in countless directions; party-rocker, pensive MC, and lovestruck poet are just a few sides of this ambitious Bay Area act. And LB knows he's conflicted. Few hip-hoppers can go from dropping a dancehall-inspired number for the ladies ("Top Shelf") to a somber R&B-styled cut about racial identity ("Is It the Skin I'm In?"). And that's why Lyrics Born triumphs again. (XLR8R)

"Absolutely true. I always work really hard to be the most versatile cat in the game, and I'm glad they're able to recognize that. I mean, everybody's conflicted, and rather than me pretend like I'm not, I celebrate it. I'll eat totally organic for dinner, but then I'll have McDonald's for breakfast — that's just life, man."

In many ways, the disc is a platform for the huge-voiced rapper to craft a public record outlining all the negatives he's toppled since his 2003 debut — from the fruitlessness of the touring hustle and the loss of a best friend to being stuffed "in a little itty bitty box" by critics. (Urb)

"I think they're right. The amount of physical, emotional, and spiritual wear and tear I've taken to get to this point and still be able to have the outlook I do — and to be blessed that my career is still growing ten-plus years later — I think I've earned the right to talk a little bit of shit. A lot of people may say, 'Oh, he's just talking a lot of shit about how hard he's worked and how great he is, and those are all hip-hop clichés.' Well, it's a little less cliché when you look out here and, you know, how many people like me are doing this in hip-hop? When you look at it from that lens, suddenly all my shit-talking takes on a new meaning.

I think of Lyrics Born as the kind of guy I'd want to date my daughter (if I had one): His lyrics are intelligent and noble, but he still knows how to have fun and bring his music to a bounce. (Signal to Noise)

"I can't comment on the daughter part 'cause I'm married [laughs]. But the best songs, the best art, it works on a variety of levels. There are important things in the world that need to be discussed, but I still like to have a good time, and I like to have a good time discussing things that bother me."

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Michael Alan Goldberg