You may be wondering how to pronounce the name of this particular group, the pairing of Bay Area emcees Lateef the Truth Speaker and Lyrics Born. Well, it’s kinda like “satyr,” except with an “X” on the end, an “L” on the front, and the “S” gone. Something like that.
Anyway, while Company Flow was creating completely left of field music that hocked a gooey green loogie in the eye of the mainstream over in NYC, Latyrx was doing similar things on the West Coast. The duo of Lateef and Lyrics Born originally met up as members of Solesides, a collective of artists out of the Davis campus of the University of California, which also included members Blackalicious and DJ Shadow…both of whom would go on to major success (and both I gotta get to soon). Together, as Latryx, the duo was concerned with making rap on their own terms, which meant smart rhymes with experimental approaches to their delivery and production. In 1997, right when rap was at it’s most blingy, they released a classic record known simply as The Album, which featured lo-fi production and eyebrow-raising listens. Though not as out there as Company Flow’s debut, The Album is a rather inaccessible listen which opens up with repeated plays. Case in point is the record’s opening track, “Latyrx,” which has both Lyrics Born and Lateef rapping different verses at the same damn time, which, is brilliant by the way, because it forces you to listen to the track at least 3 times to really understand it (well, once to go “WTF” repeatedly, and two more times to hear each rapper’s rhymes).
But that isn’t tonight’s song. But certainly look that one up.
Instead, I always preferred this track, a Lateef solo joint produced by the one and only DJ Shadow. Lateef flies through this one with some great lines, and the punchy drums (which you may recognize from Endtroducing…), provides for a track which is quite the (w)reckoning itself.
From the moment the CD appeared in my mailbox, addressed from the far reaches of Eastern Europe, I’ve been bumping the UK alternative rock group Slo-Mo’s first and sadly only effort… Slo-Mo (er, self-titled). The group, the brainchild of Sheffield musician David Gledhill, came together in 2003 with a goal of making bold, dynamic, and dangerous music. Gledhill’s got an ear for the dramatic, with striking guitars, great drumming care of member Liam Oliver, and fantastic backing vocals from Kim Woodward and Tracey Wilkinson. Their self-titled debut from 2004 is a pretty decent listen, one which I’ve been pretty much hooked on for the last few days.
“Boy From The City” is a perfect example of what they do best. I stumbled onto this song back in my high school days long ago, due to it’s inclusion in the video game Driver 3 (or Driv3r, whatever), which, to get on my gamer nerd steez and go off on a quick tangent, was an absolutely shitty game with an awesome soundtrack (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas eased the pain, though!). “Boy” is a hurried, ramshackle listen, perfectly suited for some sort of badass low-budget but artfully executed and shaky-cam-full extended chase scene. The song describes a wet-behind-the-ears kid on the run from a Russian loan shark after a deal falls through. It’s not the deepest song, but the plot carries the track well and puts you in the right frame of mind. Accompanied by the background vocals of Woodward and Wilkinson and the desolate, dangerous beat, it’s an addictive listen.
Call ‘em class clowns. Four young, vulgar, ADD-addled smartasses who stood out against the stark landscape of early ’90s West Coast hip-hop. They were The Pharcyde, a group whom with one record blew up L.A. alternative rap. While the foursome of Fatlip, Imani, Bootie Brown, and Slimkid Tre weren’t the first guys from Cali to rap about stuff that didn’t concern sex, money, and murder (Artists like Del and Freestyle Fellowship were already on the scene), they brought critical acclaim and national attention to lighthearted L.A. rap. They came along at the right time, 1992, just months after the city imploded from the L.A. riots and right before Dr. Dre changed the game completely with The Chronic. Their style took a page or two out of the Native Tongue handbook, as they embraced expression, youth, and individuality. They rapped about normal stuff that happened to them.
Well, somewhat normal stuff.
Bizarre Ride II, not a sequel, but a clever line when paired with the group’s name, was a straight up addiction for me when I first got into hip-hop. The group initially reminded me of a West Coast version of De La Soul, except somehow wilder and much, much stranger. Bizarre Ride is full of wild outbursts, head-scratching tales, ridiculous interludes, hi-larious rhymes, and somewhat queasy revelations. Trust me, when you hear that infamous phone call between a super-duper creepin’ Fatlip and an unsuspecting innocent woman on “4 Better or 4 Worse” you know that you’re in some odd, carnival-like funhouse where any-fuckin’-thing GOES. It’s a brilliantly whacked album, and you could tell that the four had some fun coming up with the wildest shit they could.
The production suits the kids perfectly. It’s blunt, weird, and spontaneous, with a jazzy vibe, smart samples, some live instrumentation, and the solid feeling of an intimate, live, performance…something that not many hip-hop records did back in the day (or do today for that matter). There are many moments where you hear the four of ‘em wilding out to a solid drum and piano combo, and throughout the record you’ll often hear other members yelling, ad-libbing, correcting, interjecting, and interrupting in the background while someone is on the mic, which adds to the chaos and oddity. Again, they were really having fun here, and didn’t mind screwing around even when the mic was recording.
Now, if you know the Pharcyde, you associate them with one song in particular. “Passing Me By,” a track dedicated to heartache and unrequited love, was one of Bizarre Ride’s few serious songs, and the one that came to define the group. While it’s a solid track, with real emotion and sincerity, you probably know it already (and if not, Youtube it), and I’m always in the mood for strangeness and hilarity, so tonight’s post is “Officer.”
Starting off with a nice little cover of Public Enemy (whom I really need to post about soon…as they are my most favorite group in the history of ever), the group goes wild, rapping about the highs and lows of owning a car…with no license, registration, or insurance. It’s a hilarious listen, as the crew goes cruising day to day, heading to school, heading to work, trying to mack the ladies, and all the while desperately trying not to get stopped by the cops. It’s especially poignant in the aftermath of Rodney King and the riots, as you know from some of my earlier posts about L.A.’s atmosphere in the early ’90s, the LAPD were not dudes to be taken lightly. The skit at the end is both funny and sad. A great listen.