Longevity is never a guarantee in any profession. In hip hop, it’s hardly a right or a privilege as we’re inundated by trends and radars that buzz one second and cool off just as quick as they heat up. The Bay Area’s Lyrics Born has been rapping and traveling the world for over two decades, and knows the delicate line an artist must walk in order to develop staying power in the ever fickle rap game without compromising for a second.
LB recently took a few minutes to chat with AAHIPHOP regarding life, his legacy, and the winding roads of his seemingly never-ending tour schedule ahead of his next release, Now Look What You’ve Done, Lyrics Born! Greatest Hits, a collection twenty-five years in the making.
Check out the interview below and be sure to pick up a copy of Now Look What You’ve Done, out today.
You’re about to drop a greatest hits collection celebrating 25 years in the game. 25 years in any field takes determination, patience, and the ability to adapt. What’s the secret? What keeps you coming back year after year?
I’m just a stubborn Japanese man (laughs). Nah, I just keep having ideas I want to explore, new vocal ideas I want to try, and new concepts I want to flesh out.
Why rap? What forces drew you to the art and culture of hip hop music?
Hearing “Rappers Delight” as a 1st grader changed my life. As soon as I heard it I knew what kind of artist I wanted to be. Even at that age I remember thinking, “damn, this is sea change, a paradigm shift.” Music was never the same for me or the world again.
The Variety Show Series is so dope. Is this last installment really the final chapter? How did you come up with the idea, and why bring it to an end?
Yeah, Season 7, that’s it. It’s time to start something new. Their purpose was to tie in exclusives, rarities, and features people may not have access to unless I compiled them in one place. It would give people a chance to see what I was doing in-between LPs, and also sneak peaks at whatever LB project was forthcoming.
Your tour game is impressive. How important is it to tour today in the face of downloads, free mixtapes, leaks, and streaming services?
It’s everything. As a career indie-artist, it’s really one of the few things that keeps the lights on. My advances have always been modest, and I think we’ve all seen other artists streaming statements online (laughs). But also, I truly love it. I’m a natural performer.
Can’t help but feel the honesty in your bars. You address the realities of the world. That being said, America is in a constant state of fragility; the economy, safety and security here and abroad, education, the list goes and goes. How does hip hop fit into that fabric as the voice of the voiceless?
It’s exactly that, if that’s what you want it to be. At its best, hip-hop is rebellious, defiant, and doesn’t ask permission. Whether or not it’s politically or socially motivated, it’s a certain attitude that can’t be mistaken.
At the 25 year mark you’ve got to be thinking legacy. What are you aiming to leave behind?
I was thinking legacy from day one. I’m just very fortunate and blessed that people have been listening and felt what I was doing was important for long enough to get here. Anytime I would work on an album and I was on a flight, I’d always say, “Please God, don’t let it go down, I still haven’t finished such and such album yet”. Now that the Greatest Hits album is dropping, I don’t find myself saying that lately (laughs).
New record, more shows, Lyrics Born is really out here in 2016. What’s on your plate this year? What can we expect from the Lyrics Born camp heading into spring/summer?
Festivals and shows all summer celebrating Now Look What You’ve Done. Then I’m going to start releasing and re-releasing music in the fall along with more touring.
Last but certainly not least, what’s your drink of your choice?
Yamazaki 18. All day.