Lyrics Born - The Born Identity
Author: Porl Deville
Thursday, 20 September 2007
Let’s face it: James Brown will always be irreplaceable. No one has had a greater influence on popular music. However, in the time since his passing, the twin worlds of funk and soul have gone through a metamorphosis – and there are those out there who are fighting to keep the groove alive.
Californian MC / Vocalist Lyrics Born is at the forefront of these funky crusaders, and you only need to hear the first few bars of I Changed My Mind to know that he’s a worthy successor to the Godfather himself.
He mixes gravelly funk vocals with melodic MC skills to a devastating effect, catapulting the mood of any crowd into one of pure delight. As he munches on his favourite chicken salad sandwich, he finds space between mouthfuls to wax lyrical about the state of things.
“You know, to me the [hip hop and funk scene] is wide open, and I love it,” Born declares. “There’s so much history now with hip hop and more so with funk, and so many people doing it differently, that anybody has just as much of a chance as anyone else at connecting right now. Honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Everybody should do their own thing, you know. Sometimes I look at the hip hop landscape and I think, ‘The world already has a Common, the world already has a Kanye West and a T.I., and I have to be me’. The world does not have a Lyrics Born unless I do it. That’s really the stance I have – I just do what interests me. If you take that path, you’ll never get sucked into the whole idea of sameness. I’ve never really walked the beaten path.
“What I try to do is to keep my [music] as eclectic as my interests are,” Born continues, “while still keeping it funky. For me, those are my two main criteria. I like to keep it as interesting, eclectic and diverse as I can while still maintaining the funk. Funk music moves you, and it works on so many different levels. It moves you physically, mentally and spiritually.
“If you can get people on the dance floor and give them something they can take home – something to think about – I think that’s the beauty of funk. When it’s used as a vehicle to convey a message – there’s no better way to do it than with music. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t like funk!”
Having just released a completely live hip hop record (Overnight Encore), Lyrics Born is recognised as an artist who has carved out his own niche in a scene that can be extremely disposable and fly-by-night. As his many releases will attest to, he has never compromised his sound to conform to current transient styles, but instead has remained fresh through innovation and dedication.
“When the time came to record [Overnight Encore],” Born says, “I took a step back and I said to myself, ‘What hasn’t been done before-’ and ‘What haven’t I done yet-’ One of the things that I hadn’t done yet was a live album. When I’m on the road and touring I’m doing in between 150 to 200 shows a year, and it’s such a huge part of my life that it just made sense for me to document and record it and make it available to people.
“It wasn’t really a difficult thing to translate. If your show is good, and it has spirit, energy and soul, then that’s going to come across. We recorded stuff from two separate shows, and the first part of the set was actually recorded in Sydney, and then the second part at a show in Melbourne.
“You know, I want people to be inspired by my music in the same way that I was inspired by James Brown or Curtis Mayfield, KRS One or Erik B and Rakim. I try to write music that really means something to me, and I’m not interested in making music that has no value 10 years from now.”
Intelligence and soul are Born’s primary weapons, and he uses them together with his unmatched breath control and vocabulary to bring the noise. Those who are eagerly awaiting their next dose of Lyrics should know that, aside from his sure-to-be-off-the-hook appearance at the forthcoming Parklife festival, he is working on a new artist album as well as gathering inspiration for a fresh release under the Quannum umbrella.
“There’re definitely plans for a new Quannum project,” Born reveals. “I mean, no date has been set, but we talk about it all the time. For now, I’ve got a new album that I’m finishing called Everywhere At Once, and it’ll be out in February 2008.
“For the [Parklife] festival, I’m going to be making the show go bananas! I’m bringing the whole five-piece band – bass, keys, guitar, drums, backing singers. The model for our live shows is ‘Whatever it takes’, so we have a set that we do, but there is a lot of improvisation.
“I love the festival shows because the energy and the crowd participation is just ridiculous – with that volume of people, it’s just amazing. In essence, it’s kind of a spiritual thing. Club shows are cool too because they’re so intimate. Quite honestly, I like both – I really do.”
The funk is in safe hands with Lyrics Born, and when his music ricochets off ‘the one’ with an energetic and rhythmic bounce, it’s not difficult to picture James Brown’s gigantic toothy grin shining down from the heavens.
“I knew from the time I was five or six years old that I was going to be an artist, Born reflects. “It wasn’t until I heard hip-hop that I knew what kind of artist I was going to be. When I heard that particular genre of music, I instantly knew which path to take.”
WHO: Lyrics Born
WHAT: Overnight Encore: Lyrics Born Live! out through Quannum Projects/Inertia / plays at Parklife
WHEN: Now / Sunday 30 September