Sixteen long hip-hop years ago Bay Area duo Latyrx (Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truth Speaker) released their highly innovative, critically-acclaimed full length debut The Album. And now in late 2013 the hip-hop power-duo, who've separately enjoyed highly prolific and successful individual careers over the past decade and a half, have finally reunited to record and release the long overdue follow up: The Second Album which arrived in Amoeba on November 5th.
In celebration of this recommended new album, that was released via Latyramid and is also available in vinyl format, they will be doing a special Bay Area concert tomorrow night at the Independent in San Francisco - on a bill also featuring album contributors Forrest Day and Gift of Gab (as host), plus Aaron Axelsen. With a wide variety of producers including Amp Live from Zion I, Jel from Anticon, tUnE-yArDs, the Decemberists' Chris Funk, and Forrest Day, plus such select mic guests as fellow Solesides/Quannum collective member the Gift of Gab from Blackalicious, Zion I's Zumbi, and LA emcee Busdriver - Lyrics Born and Lateef have concocted a richly diverse album that, while sonically quite different from its predecessor (more alt-rap than roots and experimental hip-hop), is one of the better and more adventurous hip-hop releases of 2013. "It’s very eclectic, mature, nonsensical imaginative, poetic, organic, synthetic," summed up Lyrics Born of the album in a pre-release description of the anticipated new album. This week I caught up with the two busy members of Latyrx via email to ask them each four questions. Their responses appear below immediately following the video for the new album track "Exclamation Point" that was produced by and also features on vocals Forrest Day.
Latyrx "Exclamation Point (feat. Forrest Day)" (2013)
Amoeblog: Considering the differences, not only in technology but also in your careers, since the first album was recorded and now - in what ways was the overall recording process of The Second Album different from the first?
Lyrics Born: There was no such thing as emailed tracks in '95 when we first started the actual recording of The Album. We did all the songs face to face with the producers, of which there were only three: myself, Chief Xcel, and DJ Shadow. Of the 13 tracks on The Second Album, there were twelve producers. 75% of whom we never set foot in the studio with together, and another 10% of whom I've never met personally. We just made a classic album, and yet we could pass each other on the street and not recognize each other. The game is just totally digital now. 0's and 1's.
Lateef: Yeah, I'd also say [that] the actual physical recording process is a lot faster now. When we did the first album there was a lot of waiting for things to rewind, and punching a lyric line took a while. Those kind of technical things are a lot faster now.
Amoeblog: What is the most significant difference - as you personally see it - between hip-hop in the mid 90's to now?
Lyrics Born: Two of the most obvious differences are: first no more samples. It's like there's been a moratorium on using pre-recorded music to make music with. Oh well! The samples reamed the samplers so bad on the publishing, maybe because in their day they were often so often reamed by the industry. In any case, after the 90's and into the mid 2000's nobody could afford to make music using that method any more. Not to mention tastes and technology changed. That was the end of the sample era as we know it. And second: there is a conspicuous lack of social and political commentary in all musical genres right now. No more Public Enemy or BDP, no more Rage against the Machine or Nirvana, no more Buju or Garnett Silk, etc. Even with the worldwide recession, staggering income inequality, endless and consecutive wars, the increasing severity and devastation of "natural" disasters…..all pretty newsworthy stuff, yet virtually absent in our music as we know it. For us, on The Second Album it was important to speak to these things, if for no other reason than because no one else is right now. We couldn't let this era go undocumented in our music.
Lateef: I would agree completely. The last addition I would make is that: prior to the 90's, hip-hop and what was considered "successful" was determined from within the hip-hop community and culture. When hip-hop exploded commercially in the 90's, what was considered "successful" was determined more and more by popular influence and tastes. As a result you see the rise of "successful" acts that got into popular ideas and stereotypes about race, violence, sexuality, etc., and a de-emphasis on political content, advanced intellectual ideas and artistic creativity. There we still some that do it, but they don't sell as much as the stuff that reflect what popular culture is "comfortable" with.
Latyrx "Gorgeous Spirits (Aye, Let's Go!)" (off The Second Album produced by The Bangerz)
Amoeblog: Was the fact that The Album was such a highly acclaimed/revered release - and hence hard to follow up - part of the reason for the delay between the two albums?
Lyrics Born: Not at all. We were simply busy building solo careers. We've probably done twelve - thirteen albums, thousands of shows, who knows how many guest appearances, productions, and mixtapes individually between us, right on up until last year. We knew we always wanted to do another Latyrx album, but as you can imagine, with that workload it took a while to find time. Until now. A lot of people don't know this but the first album was an accident. We never set out to do an album as a group. We both had a couple solo singles out at the time, one of which was a song we had together called "Latyrx". It clicked so well, we decided to compile those solo songs and do a few more together, and suddenly, boom, we had The Album. That's why half of it was solo material. It was literally thrown together. Just by divine happenstance it all worked out and sounded good. 42 minutes including skits, in an era where most rap albums were a minimum of 18 tracks and 80 minutes, so really, we barely had more than an EP. I remember us doing "Off With Their Heads" because we were at a loss for ideas and material, so we just freestyled and came off the dome over a track I made in the studio in a couple minutes. LOL. It only worked because nobody had done a totally improv'ed rap song to date, and it was just so raw and pure. I never thought The Album would mean so much to people. I mean, I knew it was good, but for it to be considered a classic.
Lateef: That just about sums it up.
Latyrx "Lady Don't Tek No" recorded @ Regency Ballroom, SF in Aug 2011
with DJ Zeph plus intro by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Amoeblog: Will 2029 be the release date of The Third Album?
Lyrics Born: LOL! I fuckin hope not. Right now I'm about ten songs into a new 2014 Lyrics Born LP, recorded almost entirely in New Orleans with NOLA guests and musicians, and Grammy winning producers Ben Ellman and Rob Mercurio of Galactic. I would love to leave straight from the mastering lab on that one and go right back into the studio with Lateef for the 3rd Latyrx LP and keep the momentum going.
Lateef: Agreed! I am also hammering out some ideas for my next solo projects, but I'd love to do another Latyrx record on its heels. We have a very unique and potent chemistry.