Appearing on Saturday, June 7, Lyrics Born is the only hip-hop artist at the 25th annual Marquette Waterfront Festival. Shaped by funk, new wave and electro, the Tokyo-born, San Francisco-raised rapper should appeal to fest-goers who haven't embraced hip-hop as well as his longtime fans.
In addition to cofounding the hip-hop collective and record label Solesides in the early '90s, Lyrics Born belongs to Latyrx, a duo with Lateef the Truthspeaker. The pair's debut full-length, 1997's The Album, is a definitive underground hip-hop release, and their 2012 album was recorded live at Google. With two decades' worth of studio albums, mixtapes and remixes to choose from, his solo catalog is more daunting.
These five tracks highlight its diversity.
This track from 2010's As U Were features slick rapping and a chorus full of funky, '70s-style soul, the kind a very upbeat Gap Band would play.
If you heard only the chorus of this song from 2008's Everywhere at Once, you might think you turned on a Talking Heads hit. Listen further and you'll find rhymes about global warming, shouts that resemble protest chants, and a smooth R&B verse.
On this track from 2004, Lyrics Born works with Bay Area legends E-40 and Casual to create a bouncy celebration of their hometown. Listen to it by Monona Bay and you can pretend it's about Madison.
This song from last year's Latyrx release, The Second Album, was produced by tUnE-YaRdS' Merrill Garbus and includes a guest appearance by Gift of Gab. At points, it sounds like a back-of-the-train speech from the 1800s, with presenters running out of breath and a father reading to a half-asleep child. Minimalist afrobeat stylings add to the fun.
This tune's big, hyphy bass beat could rattle the doors off a teenager's car, but its verse-chorus combination is a bit more mature. The latter serves as a conversation between Lyrics Born and his wife, vocalist Joyo Velarde, who'll perform with him at the festival. Fittingly, the song's about the music they make together.