Underground progressive rapper Tsutomu Shimura, better known as Lyrics Born, has released his latest album, Mobile Homies Season 1, inspired by his feel-good podcast of the same name where the Japan-born, Bay Area artist interviews rappers, DJs, emcees and other luminaries in the hip hop game. His new album features longstanding heavy hitters formative to the art form and also uses clips from his podcast interviews to weave together these new tunes.
“Mobile Homies is a podcast that I started during quarantine just so I could stay in touch with my friends,” notes Lyrics. “We had some of the most in-depth and heartfelt discussions that I’ve ever had, either personally or professionally, and they just so happen to be both. I thought it would be amazing if we turned the podcast into an album series since I’ve always wanted to do a project of nothing but collaborations. The only parameters were to have fun vibing with each other.”
Staying true to the four principles of hip hop (peace, love, unity and having fun) while mixing elements of funk, soul and classic boom-bap — Lyrics Born takes the stage as the Pied Piper of rappers, calling on his peers to help speak on some of the issues we face in today’s society from racism to the pandemic — both topics covered in the incendiary ”Anti” where Lyrics and rapper Cutso lay in on the racism many Asian Americans experience all throughout their life and its recent uptick since the emergence of the coronavirus.
With the likes of Dan the Automator, Lateef the Truthspeaker (who Lyrics previously collaborated with under the name Latyrx) Blackalicious, Sitcom Dad and more — the album flows with mad charisma, ebbing and flowing between serious subjects, general expressions of joy and hilariously fun word play. Together, this crew of wise raconteurs shed light on heavier themes while also paying homage to the experiences, romances and places that helped shaped them. On the backend, Lyrics worked with 10 different producers to bring the album’s 12 tracks to life.
Released less than a year after the passing of Timothy Jerome Parker, AKA the Gift of Gab, the album is also a testament to the late great rapper and emcee who contributed so much to the game of hip hop and delivered positive, progressive thinking and community oriented messages within his solo music and his work with Chief Xcel as Blackalicious.
“Having a song like ‘My City’ with Blackalicious is especially important because we all miss The Gift of Gab so much,” says Lyrics Born, reflecting on the beloved emcee’s recent passing. “We recorded the song while he was still with us, and it’s unfortunate he’s not here to see it be released. That song is particularly special for me.”
From etching the memory of friends who have now passed, reconnecting with former collaborators to breaking new ground with visionary artists, Lyrics Born’s Mobile Homies Season 1 is teeming with life, wisdom and self-expression to an exponential degree.
Blazing the trail for Asian American rappers, Lyrics Born has had an extremely fruitful and substantial music career over the decades and recently branched out into the world of film, appearing in the films Sorry to Bother You and Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe.
Words: Patti Sanchez
Lyrics Born Tour Dates
4/20 – The Seasons Performance Hall – Yakima, WA – TICKETS
4/21 – Nectar Lounge – Seattle, WA – TICKETS
4/22 – Jack London Revue – Portland, OR – TICKETS
4/23 – WildCraft Cider Works – Eugene, OR – TICKETS
4/30 – Harlows – Sacramento, CA – TICKETS
5/20 – Cypress – Reno, NV – TICKETS
7/29 – Bruns Amphitheater – Orinda, CA – TICKETS