Lyrics Born, Jazz Café, London

Chris Mugan
Tuesday 31 January 2006 01:00

As Lyrics Born, Shimura founded with DJ Shadow San Francisco's SoleSides collective, which from the early Nineties showed how hip-hop could thrive outside the mainstream. He has also achieved acclaim in the experimental duo Latyrx and made significant contributions to the later Quannum Project.

It took until 2003 for Lyrics for put out his own album, Later That Day..., which showcased his forceful rapping style. It was limited by basic production, but on last year's remix package, Same Shit Different Day, Young Einstein and Dan the Automator set his voice next to more sophisticated arrangements.

On a European tour to promote Same Shit..., Lyrics had to rely on his own plentiful skills. His rough, gravelly voice filled the venue with ease. While left-field hip-hop is synonymous with laid-back cool and chin-stroking head music, he raised the atmosphere with call-and-responses and aerobics-class hand-waving.

By his side was long-term partner Joyo Velarde, who matched Lyrics's vocals with her own Tina Turner foghorn. To complete the package was the sensational young turntablist Mike Relm. Having warmed up the crowd with cut-ups of Joe Jackson, John Lennon and music from Charlie Brown, Relm was now more discrete, though every so often Lyrics allowed him to show off his supple skills.

"Calling Out" was a great party anthem, while "I Changed My Mind" showed off Lyrics's fine singing. At times, he was more testifying soul man than conscious rhymer. Elsewhere, Lyrics peppered his delivery with husky ragga toasting.

There was none of the contrast between power raps and playful skits you would get in a set by Quannum peers Blackalicious, however. Lyrics has written engrossing, subtle material, though it was rarely on show tonight.

Armed with remixes, Lyrics could move away from his own backing tracks based on brass-heavy funk. The lack of variety made all the more welcome an occasional use of dub reggae or Moog squelches.

At the end, Lyrics embarked on a rambling monologue about how he was unsure about visiting Europe on his own. If that was the case, then the crowd's raucous response should encourage more ambition on his return.

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