The first thing you remember is the voice: that low, molasses-slow baritone that stretches into a long, humid Cajun drawl. Imagine that voice requesting a Mac Dre and a Main Source song. That voice asking to give a shout-out to a mythic crew called the Han Bodda Han Posse (proper spelling never confirmed), which definitively places that voice as yes, Bay Area. Finally, that voice giving you the name of the obscure sample the Geto Boys flipped for “My Mind’s Playing Tricks On Me.” And thereby winning the fifth on-air contest you’ve had in five weeks.
Something had to be done about that voice.
“Man, stop calling already,” you tell the voice. “You’re disqualified. You can’t win every time. Somebody else has to have a chance.” And then the laugh—that high-pitched semi-automatic ratatat, heh-heh-heh-heh-heh!
“Just come by the studio and hang out,” you say, ‘cause you’re thinking it’s actually a bit lonely broadcasting an after-midnight radio show into the darkness of the floodplain from Vacaville to Folsom prisons and all the suburban homes in between, and plus, who is this fool anyway?
So the second thing you remember is the dude showing up to claim his Grand Daddy I.U. single: NorthFace jacket, oversized white T, Girbaud jeans hanging past plaid boxers, Air Maxes. Wait. This dude is Japanese? With curly Sicilian hair? Walking with a John Wayne horse-lope swagger? Everything about him was outside the box. This dude was born to break molds and move people.
Since then, that dude, now b/k/a Lyrics Born, has released 9 albums, 8 mixtapes, done countless guest tracks and collaborations, and become one of the most successful touring acts in the rap game. He’s done it all indie. Some of that has been by default—the culture industry is still reluctant can and sell entertainers who look like LB. But his success has been all by design.
Tom Shimura was one of a star-crossed group of freshmen who arrived at the University of California, Davis in the fall of 1990, in