Lyrics Born: As U Were

Lyrics Born: As U Were

This just in: Rapper discovers synthesizers, makes album! On his latest, As U Were, Bay Area backpack-rap pioneer Lyrics Born imagines himself as he never was: the rapping, scatting, singing, high-energy frontman of a synth-pop/nü-funk band just waiting for its close-up. For nearly two decades, he’s had a golden reputation in the underground, not only for helping found the Quannum Projects label with DJ Shadow and Blackalicious, but for his inimitable flow—a raspy, jazz-inflected thing that can shift gears effortlessly from rich crooning to triple-time multi-syllabic flow with nary a bump. But it wouldn’t hurt him to slow his roll here. Most of the record is spent on blithe, fruitless trips down other people’s styles. For “Kontrol Phreak,” he’s Cee-Lo over an electro groove. (Remember “Closet Freak”?) On “I Wanna B W/U,” he’s Justin Timberlake for the chorus and Tone Loc for the verse. He does the Latin freestyle thing on “We Live By The Beat,” and a pitch-perfect Nate Dogg on “Coulda Woulda Shoulda.” The single, “Lies X 3” actually sounds like George Michael meets Nine Inch Nails. That last one’s actually pretty great, though, and when Born dives into darker territory, all the keyboard bluster and big-band groove takes on a third dimension. (See also the cautionary cocaine tale “I’ve Lost Myself,” and the Gift Of Gab-assisted “Pillz.”) Still, nothing sounds fresher than “Something Better,” his collaboration with New York soul subverters Francis And The Lights, which raises the question “Why wasn’t that the starting point?”

More Music Review