Our local musician, Lyrics Born (Berkeley, CA) will be releasing his 10th album this week on September 14th featuring artists such as Aloe Blacc, Gift of Gab (of Blackalicious), and Del the Funkee Homosapien. In addition to his new record, he has been included in the new cinema smash Sorry to Bother You. He also has a role in the upcoming Netflix film Always Be My Maybe starring comedian Ali Wong, Randall Park (Fresh Off The Boat) and Keanu Reeves.
Make sure to read our interview with him below, and you can pre-order his album here. You can see Lyrics Born at his hometown show at Cornerstone @ Berkeley, CA on September 15, 2018.
Hi Tom! First off, you’re going to be releasing your 10thalbum in September. Congratulations on this huge achievement! What can you tell us about this upcoming record, and how long have you been working on it?
Thank you, it didn’t quite hit me that this was my 10th album until I turned it in for mastering. A burning sense of accomplishment just came over me that was different from any other album I’ve ever finished. It took a couple years to complete because I was dealing with so much personal drama including my wife’s cancer has come back after 10 years in remission. In those dark moments I wrote “Is It Worth It?” and “Can’t Lose My Joy”.
You collaborated with artists: Aloe Blacc, Gift of Gab, and Galactic for example on this record. How did you get in contact with those artists and what was the hardest part of collaborating with any of them? Were you able to work with them in person in a studio or was everything through digital demos?
Gab is one of my best friends in the game, I’ve known him for over 20 years from the Quannum days, so that was just natural. We used to collab pretty frequently but hadn’t done so in a few years so I called his crazy ass up. Aloe I’ve known since the Emanon days, and have been friends with him and his family for a long time as well. I love his artistry, he’s probably one of the most gifted songwriters I know, and he absolutely killed it on “Can’t Lose My Joy”.
You create a ton of music and some of your previous records consisted of 17-20 songs. How do you decide which songs make the record and what do you do with songs that don’t make the cut? Do you plan on releasing an EP in the future?
Thank you. They all get released somewhere at some point. I have 0 songs in a hidden vault. The world is my vault. If certain songs don’t make the main album tracklist, they get used as bonus tracks. If they don’t get used there, they get put on mixtapes, and if all else fails, they find a home on the Mobile Home Recordings album reissues I’ve been doing the past couple yrs. I’m an independent blue-collar Asian-American Artist in the American entertainment biz, we need as much content out there as possible in the world. Lol. If I have the platform and vehicle to put some shit out, oh it’s going. LB was here, goddammit.
You’re the first Asian American solo rapper to perform at Coachella and Lollapalooza. How does it feel to make a difference as a musical artist in the industry, but as an Asian American as well?
It makes me proud, determined, happy, sad, frustrated… The whole spectrum of emotions. Lol. Coming up in this business I had almost no footsteps to follow in culturally. For years I felt like I was out on an island where I drank Japanese whiskey and ate tacos while making an album every 18 months and doing 150 shows per year rapping my ass off. Thank God I had a platform for releasing music, and for the fans who recognized my talent and enjoyed it. Otherwise, I’d just be some dude with a dream in his pocket that never made it out of his bedroom, let alone affected history. I’m so proud to be a part of this wave we see right now with all the AZN artists, TV shows, and movies. Adding on to what my generation did, I love seeing Dumboundead, YOX, Awkwafina, Crazy Rich Asians, Fresh Off The Boat, etc doing so well. I just did a movie for Netflix with Ali Wong, Randall Park and Keanu Reeves called “Always Be My Maybe” due out in 2019, which I’m super proud of. I always knew American pop culture would turn the corner and be more inclusive at some point, and I’m thankful I’m still active and able to participate in the movement.
You lived in numerous cities such as Tokyo (Japan), Salt Lake City (UT, USA), and Berkeley (CA, USA). How has living in numerous places influence you as an artist and in your personal life?
It let me know the world was larger than my immediate vicinity, in every sense of the word. As a teenager making records, I couldn’t wait to get out and tour the world. I knew there were larger things out there for me than what the confines of my neighborhood, local culture, and local opinions were allowing me to see. I’ve always had to fight to create the reality I live within, and it’s been uphill, but incredibly rewarding. Now I have an 8yr old who is learning to understand first hand, a life fueled by creativity, beauty, and possibility. That is what I fight for now. Our legacy as artists is not simply the body of work and the creative footprint we leave behind, but also a lasting blueprint and roadmap for others to follow and make their journeys easier and more expansive. More than just the financial rewards I may have amassed, this is what I would like him to inherit.
Not only are you a rapper, but you appeared in the new cinema, Sorry to Bother You and upcoming Netflix film, Always Be My Maybe starring comedian Ali Wong, Randall Park (Fresh Off The Boat) and Keanu Reeves. How do you have the time to balance your music and acting career? Can we expect you in more films in the future?
Absolutely. Shout to Randall, Ali, and Nanatchka Khan, they’ve been super supportive of me. I’ve got a few more things lined up and on deck that I can’t discuss at the moment, but yes, you’ll see me in more films and TV in the future. I love comedy and being stupid, it brings me a lot of fulfillment spiritually, and I still have an extremely long bucket list of things I need to get done before I check out.