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Tom Shimura was one of a star-crossed group of freshmen who arrived at the University of California, Davis in the fall of 1990, soon after joining forces with the artists who would come to be known as DJ Shadow, Chief Xcel and the Gift of Gab (Blackalicious) and Lateef the Truth Speaker. Hip-hop was the new Bay Area counterculture. It was the sound of the future, and Lyrics Born was already living in that future. After his first record, "Send Them", he took to the stage like he had been born to be there. With his first solo album, "Later That Day...", LB captured the perfect balance between his avantgardist concern for exploration and his populist desire to rock the crowd. It became one of the biggest indie records of the era, and he found himself rocking sold-out houses around the globe, including a hat trick of Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and Coachella all in a single year. What followed was a career spanning 8 full-length albums, 7 mixtapes and guest appearances with hundreds of artists as well as production duties for bands like Poets of Rhythm and Galactic. It only makes sense that nearly 30 years later LB comes full circle with a compendium of his best material showcasing a body of work that reflects a career of hit songs and classic jams.
Tokyo-born, Berkeley-bred rapper/producer Lyrics Born, who played a major role in creating the blueprint for independent rap labels as we know them today, will release his eighth album, Real People via his Mobile Home Recordings label on May 5th. Following the album he released as one-half of Latyrx, which NPR dubbed "hands-down, the best alt-rap album of the year," Lyrics Born continues to forge new territory with Real People. Enamored with New Orleans' history and musicians from all the years of touring and playing shows there, Lyrics Born uprooted his digs in The Bay Area to The Big Easy for two weeks to recruit the city's most talented musicians. Recorded entirely in The Big Easy by Galactic's Robert Mercurio and Ben Ellman, the album follows the ethos Lyrics Born has maintained for his 20+ year career: doing things that neither he nor anyone else has done yet. Enlisting the talents of Trombone Shorty, Ivan Neville, Galactic, Corey Henry, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, along with guest stars Corey Glover (Living Colour), David Shaw (The Revivalists), Billy Martin (Medeski, Martin & Wood), and more, Lyrics Born occupies a space rarely seen in rap. No other non-NOLA rapper has dedicated a whole album working with all New Orleans funk musicians. "It might be the last true 'music town' in America, maybe in the world," states Lyrics Born. "As an artist and a person, I identify with the culture, the sensibilities, the lifestyle, and the people. I wanted to do something really soulful, organic, earthy, and with an honest, unpretentious funk feel. That's basically New Orleans." Lyrics Born balances his trademark mix of clever, good-time party ethos with a strong dose of funk with Real People as an honest body of work about the human race. Sharing personal experiences such as emigrating from Japan as a kid, fatherhood, and the direction society has turned in post-great-recession America, Lyrics Born also celebrates adulthood and the pains and joys of growing older. As he explains it, "I talk a lot of foolish shit and cuss my ass off and explore my darker side on certain songs. Hopefully we get a good cross-section of ourselves to explore on this album." With the upcoming release of the album, Lyrics Born has arrived at a well-rounded sound that is classic and yet futuristic. He hasn't forgotten his humble beginnings, but he's never been afraid to look to the future, either.
Twenty-two years after he was introduced to the world with "Send Them" — the landmark left-field 12-inch that launched the Solesides label b/w DJ Shadow's "Entropy" — Lyrics Born has made some of the most organic, original, and adventurous music of his entire career. While touring with Latyrx last, he made time for an extended stay in a place that he's long admired: America's first and last real-deal music town, New Orleans. LB stocked up on pads and pens, rented a cozy house three blocks from the famous Maple Leaf Bar, and booked two weeks' worth of sessions with Galactic guys Robert Mercurio and Ben Ellman at their Uptown studio. Then they let it rip. Funk has always been a part of what Lyrics Born does — his unique vocal swagger dishes out melody and rhyme with equal aplomb. But never has he evoked the idiom so directly or made an album that feels so alive. He turned the production over entirely (also a first) to his NOLA colleagues, giving them space to do what they do best, and him the freedom to write. Mercurio and Ellman wrangled a host of talent to execute the vision: Trombone Shorty, Ivan Neville, the Preservation Jazz Hall Band, Corey Glover (Living Colour), Corey Henry (Rebirth Brass Band), David Shaw (The Revivalists), and Billy Martin. Amidst all that quirk, soul, and raw talent, LB was reborn.
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Joseph Abajian (DJ Jab) founded Fat Beats in 1994 with nothing more than a shoestring budget and an earnest obsession with the music, the culture, and the brotherhood of New York’s burgeoning rap scene. What began as a simple vinyl shop in Manhattan’s Lower East Side quickly became an integral hub for artists, both aspiring and established, to convene and collaborate on new projects. Joseph’s timing couldn’t have been more impeccable. When the 90’s cultural zeitgeist – and, in turn, the music industry establishment – chose hip-hop as its new arbiter of cool.
International tourists and touring artists alike flocked to Fat Beats for rare vinyl, kindred spirits, and exclusive in-store performances from Jay Z, Eminem, Gang Starr, Outkast, Slum Village, Mos Def, and more. One thing was clear: the Fat Beats phenomenon could no longer be contained in a single basement shop.
In the late nineties, Abajian proceeded to open new stores in Amsterdam, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. He further expanded the company’s profile to include global distribution and record label branches. Distribution has since proven to be the company’s strongest and most enduring enterprise. Today Fat Beats Distribution stands poised as one of the country’s pre-eminent distributors of vinyl & specialty item records: a proud survivor in an industry now famous for its mortality rate. Despite market fluctuations, technology innovations, and stylistic revolutions, Fat Beats has remained steadfast in its commitment to the timeless vinyl format and to the loyal community who keeps it spinning.
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