by Michael Alan Goldberg

Lyrics Born

Fri Nov 21

Crystal Ballroom

Tom Shimura's voice didn't change until he was 23. Not only that, but the Bay Area MC/producer, better known as Lyrics Born, had already said hello to 31 by the time his solo debut album, Later That Day... (Quannum), arrived in stores last month.

"I guess I've always been kind of a late bloomer," he deadpans.

That's true and it isn't; LB is hardly a greenhorn. Underground heads know him as one of the founders of the pioneering hiphop collective Solesides (which has since evolved into Quannum Projects). But while other charter members like DJ Shadow and Blackalicious emerged as household names, Lyrics Born was still working behind the scenes as the label's main producer and talent scout, stepping out only occasionally for collaborative efforts like the 1997 Latyrx project.

Sequenced like a Prince Paul production, Later that Day swings between party jams, bleary brainfood, and hysterical interludes. Somehow, LB managed to grab all his well-mined '70s P-Funk 'n' soul/blaxploitation/reggae sounds and re-jigger them into 17 fresh-sounding tunes.

On the mic, Lyrics Born vocalizes like Bruce Lee used to fight: he'll use any number of styles to floor you while hardly breaking a sweat. His voicebox is packed with lightning-lipped sprints, scat-poet inflections, couplets hidden in conversation-speak, a Barry White-like drawl.

"I'm the type of person who gets bored really easily," he says of his flexible flow. "In the era I came up in, the rapper had a different cadence and different patterns on every song; that really hit home with me."

He may have gotten a late start on his solo career, but LB seems intent on making up for lost time. "This album is definitely a milestone in my career, but it's only one color in the overall picture," he says. "I just gotta keep pushin' forward."