Birth of a rapper 

The education of Lyrics Born

In the early ’90s, Tokyo native Tom Shimura, aka Lyrics Born, registered as a communications major at the University of California-Davis. He was by no means passionate about the subject.

“I signed up for the major that required the least amount of credits. I wanted to spend my time making records,” he says now.

And made records he has. This winter and spring, Lyrics Born will support the release of his second solo album on the Quannum Projects label, Same !@#$ Different Day, with a 33-date tour, including two Montana stops, both of which arrive prior to the April 26 release date of the record.

“I feel like

I have finally arrived,” Shimura says of the tour. “For the first time ever, I’m touring with a five-piece band. I have wanted to do this for a long time.” His live lineup includes guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and Born’s wife, singer Joyo Velarde. Audiences can expect high-energy funk from the instruments, oozy vocals from Velarde and almost Southern-sounding rap from the frontman. Shimura’s astounding breath control is one element in particular to listen for.

Same !@#$ Different Day contains mostly loose remixes of cuts from Shimura’s well-received debut Later That Day…, which showcases Shimura’s diverse talents as writer and producer. Shimura’s vocal attack and backdrop of beats vary so much from track to track that a listener might think she had pressed “shuffle” with Tone Loc, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Blackalicious, Frank Zappa and Kid Rock in the disc changer. The tie that binds Later That Day... is its concept: a day in the life of Lyrics Born. Shimura wrote and produced most of the debut himself over a year and a half of recording in England, Brazil, Germany and the U.S.

Although Same !@#$ Different Day is Lyrics Born’s second solo album, solo is a relative term. Velarde lends her classically trained voice to most tracks and skater-cum-musician Tommy Guerrero lays down beats.

“I’ve always thought of myself as an artist who not only can produce, but can also be produced,” says Shimura, who enlisted fellow Quannum Projects label artists and producers and outsiders to reinvent his sound and amp up the energy for his sophomore outing. He says he wanted “other people to put their spin on what I created pretty much by myself,” and so Same !@#$ Different Day showcases the talents of Dan the Automator, Evidence, Young Einstein, Lateef the Truth Speaker, Chief Xcel, DJ Shadow, Stereo MCs, C. Holiday, The Poets of Rhythm, E-40, Casual, Capricorn II and DJ Spinna. If these names mean nothing to you, maybe you’ll recognize Blackalicious, Morcheeba or KRS-One—they also appear on the record.

Shimura describes Same !@#$ Different Day as the result of a 10-year collaboration with

the artists of Quannum Projects, an underground hip-hop label launched in the early ’90s. Asia Born (now Lyrics Born), Chief Xcel, Gift of Gab/ Blackalicious, Josh Davis/DJ Shadow and Lateef the Truth Speaker met at the University of California-Davis. The young artists collectively called themselves Solesides, and their first release was a 12-inch record with DJ Shadow’s “Entropy” on one side and Asia Born’s “Send Them” on the flip.

And what exactly does the Quannum Projects peddle? It’s not gangsta rap—no bling bling or beeyatches. Lyrics Born is good clean fun with a little politics on the side. The vibe is as upbeat as Michael Franti and Spearhead, but the politics are milder. The grooves are contagious, the hooks infectious, the rhyming clever and surprising, but above all, the music is listenable. “Hello Remix” says it all: “We’ve only got one set of rules here and each one of them says that ya’ll got to have a good time.”

And yes, you can have a good time and finish college. Lyrics Born completed his communications degree, records and all.

Lyrics Born performs Monday, March 7, at The Other Side. Doors open at 9 PM, show at 10. Tickets cost $12 in advance/$15 at the door. 18+.

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