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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Lyrics Born

Posted By on Wed, May 7, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Later that Day..., the 2003 solo debut of Bay Area rapper Tom Shimura (a.k.a. Lyrics Born), was a modest, funny, funky backpacker album about searching for a sense of place in a predominantly African-American art form when you don't fit the demo (LB was born in Tokyo, grew up in Northern California, and is half-Japanese, half-Italian). On the strength of its songs being licensed for commercials and films, Later became a moderate success, significantly raising LB's profile since his early days as half of the '90s hip-hop duo Latyrx. Not surprisingly, his long-awaited follow-up, Everywhere at Once, may feel a little like his coming-out party — just don't expect a garish celebration of his newfound fame or a spiteful spit in the eye for those who doubted him.

Many of Everywhere's tracks re-examine Later's tales of racial identity and hip-hop exclusivity, but from the grounded perspective of a more successful individual. Spanning the catchy funk of "Cakewalk" to the soul-powered introspection of "Is It the Skin I'm In?" Everywhere still grapples with self-doubt and prejudice, but fame hasn't turned LB bitter or arrogant. If anything, like the sample-lite, band-fortified music that backs him, he sounds looser and more confident. That doesn't mean he doesn't stumble on occasion: Though he's adept at for-the-ladies jams, "Differences" bogs down in trite comedy-club observations about the divide between men and women in relationships. But nowhere does he make the critical mistake of getting too big for his britches. He began modest and, on Everywhere at Once, that's where he happily remains.

Tim Grierson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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