Keepin’ it fresh

Rapper Lyrics Born tries to present
a different side of himself in every
track on his new album,
"Later That Day"

Lyrics Born

Where: Wave Waikiki, 1877 Kalakaua Ave.
When: 9 p.m. today
Tickets: $20
Call: 946-7773

ASK San Francisco rapper Lyrics Born what the driving force was behind his solo debut, and you'll get a surprising answer.

"I get bored really easy," he said during a recent phone interview. "I didn't want to make an album where every song has the same approach as the last."

Each of the 17 tracks on "Later That Day" presents a slightly different side of the Tokyo-born lyricist, but taken as a whole, the disc is a throwback to a time when artists tried to captivate listeners from start to finish.

"That was definitely the intent -- you can just pop it in, hit play, and that's it," said Lyrics Born. "It's very rare these days that you come across albums like that ... (where) the sequence actually makes sense."

AS A founding member of SoleSides Records (now known as Quannum Projects) with the likes of DJ Shadow, Blackalicious and Dan the Automator, Lyrics Born is no rookie when it comes to the hip-hop game.

The only difference these days, other than the decision to take a break from working with Lateef the Truth Speaker as half of the group Latyrx to focus on his solo career, is the amount of exposure he's getting among mainstream audiences.

Check out Apple's iTunes Music Store, and you'll find all of the tracks off "Later That Day" available for download. He was also featured on MTV as a "You Hear It First" artist, joining the likes of Fefe Dobson, Joss Stone, Rosco P. Coldchain and Little Brother as someone the network felt mainstream audiences needed to get to know a little better.

"I was ecstatic," Lyrics Born said when asked how it felt to see himself on cable television. "How often do guys like me get that kind of exposure -- and how often do they get (it) just being themselves?"

JUST BEING himself also means dealing with the issue of race. Half Japanese and half Italian, Lyrics Born (a k a Tom Shimura) is often asked what it's like to be one of the few Asians on the grind in the hip-hop community.

"I get asked that question a lot, and it's probably one of the more difficult ones to answer," he said. "I get tired of it, but at the same time I appreciate it. ... There are very few of us out here doing this.

"It's a topic (but) it shouldn't be the topic," he continued. "It's kind of a double-edged sword -- all your life experiences are based on who you are, and of course that's going to come across in your art somehow."

Instead, he'd rather focus on maintaining the experimental flavor his music provides to listeners. Forget about popping bottles of Cristal and rolling around town on 22-inch rims -- Lyrics Born prefers substance over style.

"I don't want to make songs that are just mindless rump-shakers," he said. "It's possible to convey a vast array of emotions and feelings and attitudes. That's what I want to hear."

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