It’s not often that an innovator of underground music
appears in Ann Arbor. Tonight, Tom Shimura, also known as Lyrics
Born, brings his funk-infused brand of hip-hop to the Blind
Pig.

Later That Day, Shimura’s solo debut as Lyrics
Born, features lightning-quick rhymes, explosive beats and a funk
levity that distinguishes him as one of the most dynamic forces in
the underground hip-hop scene.

“When I was real little, (I liked) Sugar Hill Gang, 2 Live
Crew … as I got older it was all about Eric B. & Rakim,
KRS-One,” Shimura says. After exploring the genre as a
listener, producer and artist, the Northern California hip-hop
pioneer has expanded his tastes. “Maybe 10 years ago,
(hip-hop) was like 75 percent of what I listened to, but now
it’s 10 percent or 15 percent. Now I listen to mostly old
soul and reggae.”

All the genres show their influence on Later That Day.
Blistering-hot backing vocals (provided by Constance Lopez and
Shimura’s special lady Joyo Velarde) shimmer within the
texture of Shimura’s gravelly rhymes and infectious beats.
Velarde also brings her seductive style to the slinky,
reggae-inspired duet “Love Me So Bad.”

Attending the University of California, at Davis, Shimura and
friends Chief Xcel, Gift of Gab of Blackalicious and DJ Shadow
found themselves without an outlet to spread their music.
“When we started (Solesides) up, it was out of necessity. We
were all trying to go the conventional route. We had demos and we
were all trying to get deals with major labels, but where we were,
and at that point in music history, it wasn’t really feasible
for a label to sign us. We were very left of center, we were from
California, it just wasn’t that way back then.” So the
creators of Solesides (a group that Lyrics Born helped found) laid
the foundation for their own hip-hop collective. “It
wasn’t because we wanted to be big business moguls or
anything like that. We felt like if we could make our own records
then our music wouldn’t have gotten heard in the early
days.”

Solesides has come a long way since its inception in 1992. After
success with Blackalicious’s album Nia and DJ
Shadow’s Entroducing…, the label became Quannum
Projects. With Quannum, Shimura established himself as a producer
as Latyrx with Lateef the Truthspeaker on the legendary underground
full-length The Album.

Shimura began creating his solo debut with many different ideas,
but soon hit on the idea that would create a cohesive album.
Later That Day begins with a sound montage that includes
snippets of human voices, birds singing, TV news and song clips,
spaced-out percussion and a recurring clock radio buzzer. The
sounds build up to the heavy beats of social-dissatisfaction anthem
“Bad Dreams.” “(Later That Day) is
supposed to start late last night and finish late tonight. I wanted
to make an album that had a lot of different styles and I think the
only way I felt I could tie that together cohesively was to tie in
the concept of the day and how things change … Four or five songs
into the album, it was clear that I had songs going in a lot of
different directions.”

Shimura hasn’t forgotten his Solesides roots. He trades
banter with Gift of Gab on “Cold Call,” a telephone
conversation lined up with a laid-back beat and galvanized by a
blistering funk guitar intro; Lateef appears on the hypnotic
post-9/11 polemic “The Last Trumpet.” Another
collaborator, Cut Chemist, adds music to Shimura’s lyrics on
the high-energy “Do That There.” Rappers The Altered
Egos guest on “One Session.”

Shimura’s career has put him in front of the mic and
behind mixing boards; he’s seen hip-hop grow and change for
more than a decade. “I like the fact that we’re getting
much more diverse. Underground hip-hop is so widespread now —
it’s really hard to define because there are so many
different styles at this point in history.”

“Having said that, I think the rap community needs to be
more accepting of those groups having success outside of the
underground. I’d like to see us get a little more tolerant of
artists gaining larger audiences outside of that core underground
community.”

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