The term “holistic” doesn’t seem appropriate when describing a Friday night hip-hop show, but it’s strikingly apt when describing the experience of attending a Lyrics Born concert.
Generally speaking, the audience comes for a good time, and the Bay Area rapper certainly plans to “throw down” and “party hard.” But after several years in the music industry, Lyrics Born has provided as much inspiration as perspiration — and it’s that aspect of his career that’s most important.
“When I first started, it was an excuse for me to get high, meet girls, party and all that stuff,” says the Japanese-American artist. “It still is fun and it should be fun, but somewhere along the way, I realized that what I have is a gift. I realized that gift comes from somewhere. It’s my belief that it’s a gift from God. At that turning point, I realized that music and the ability to create art and affect people is a spiritual thing for me. It’s something that I have to respect.”
The turning point came after a few years in the game when he recorded a single called “Balcony Beach.” After several typical party singles, LB found the typical post-show banter changing as the audience absorbed his material at a different level.
“The comments I’d get after a show started to change,” he says. “It wasn’t like, ‘You’re dope.’ It was more like, ‘Wow, this song really helped me through some rough shit.’ They were describing my songs with adjectives that were much deeper than before. People were finding what I do to be multidimensional, and at that point I realized it was affecting people in a way I never intended. I really liked it and it made it feel like I was doing some thing more important than before.”
Lyrics Born’s latest album, As U Were, was released late last fall and should reap similar comments, given its context and meaning for both rapper and listener. LB calls the album a coping mechanism for himself and his fans, saying it was named after his ability to stay the course and be himself in the midst of a rough couple of years. Songs that speak to such themes are bound to resonate with the listener long after the last beats pulse and pound.
Despite success that’s carried him to top selling status on iTunes and collaborations with Jurassic 5, Kasabian, DJ Shadow and others, it’s the emotionally enduring quality of the work that keeps him going. As he says, “It’s so incredible when you can take the things that have negatively affected you and thrown you for a loop and reroute that energy through art and turn it into a song that affects the world in a positive way.”
The upcoming Denver appearance is part of a tour heading eastward after spending the fall up and down the West Coast. Lyrics Born spent the latter part of 2010 with a heavier-hitting line-up of Chali 2na, Rakim and Dilated Peoples, whereas in 2011, he will be carrying the load alongside up-and-coming Canadian hip-hop trio Keys N Krates.
That’s good news for longtime fans of LB, considering he says he’s reaching all the way back to his first LP (1997’s Latyrx) and beyond. The live band of Keys N Krates and the DJ element provided by LB’s Mixed Re-View (his backing band of vocalist Joyo Velarde and DJ D-Sharp) craft a musical blend that Lyrics Born says he’s been waiting at least eight to 10 years to put together.
“If you’re asking me for any surprises, the answer is ‘yes,’ since I’ll surprise myself with what we play,” he says with a laugh. “But we’ll definitely come and throw down, because all we want to do is come and party incredibly hard. And Denver never disappoints.”
On the Bill
Lyrics Born plays at The Oriental Theater on Friday, Jan. 21. Doors at 8 p.m. Keys N Krates and White Fudge also appearing. Tickets are $14.50. 4335 W 44th Ave., 720-420-0030.