Extracted from the AOR Vault: Conducted March 2008
So how are you feeling man?
Lyrics Born: I’m doing really well. Everything is great.
You display a wide variety of styles and influences, so when you work on an album how do you decide which direction to go in? For example, this new album “Everywhere at Once.”
Lyrics Born: Whenever I make an album I sit back and look at the landscape and ask myself what people aren’t doing. What’s not being said? The second question I ask myself is what I haven’t done yet. My day job is as a rapper but my life goal is to be inspiring. I can’t be inspiring if I’m not inspired myself. The way I keep myself inspired is by continually challenging myself on a variety of levels. When I go to make a new album there has to be some new challenges involved. With this album I wanted to play to my strengths and play on all of the feedback I have gotten over the last few years from my other records. I wanted to produce the album in a different way I did in the past, so I brought in a lot of live musicians.
I didn’t sample any old music on this record at all. Thirdly I never got really personal in any of my previous records. I wanted to go a little deeper on this one. I’ve always felt like my favorite artists best albums are the ones where the artist really went out on a limb, gave a lot of themselves and put themselves out there so the listener can relate. I never really did that in the past, not to the degree I did on this record.
How challenging was it to make an album entirely free of samples?
Lyrics Born: You know what, it was way easier. When I make records there’s a lot going on. It’s a little easier to make that happen in the way you want it to or make it flow a bit more when you’re dealing with instruments. Certain parts of it on the technical side are a little more challenging. The actual song writing and production process were actually easier for me. I definitely found my niche.
Who are some of the artists you collaborated with on the project?
Lyrics Born: I worked with a producer called Trackademicks who’s from out here in the Bay area. He’s an up and coming cat. I worked with a producer named Jake One who’s done a lot of G-Unit stuff. I worked with Amp Live from Zion I and I worked with my band and a whole gang of musicians, such as a really talented singer names Myron Glasper and of course I worked with Joyo Velarde again as always. Chali 2na is on the album and Baby J from out here in the Bay. There weren’t really a whole lot of collaborations with other rappers. I only collaborated with two other rappers on the entire album. It didn’t call for it this time around like “Same Shit Different Day” where every song had a guest artist. On this album I really didn’t go that route.
So who where the lucky two artists?
Lyrics Born: Well Chali 2na was one of them and Trackademicks did a verse.
Who were some of your main influences coming up?
Lyrics Born: On the Hip Hop side it was always people like Krs-One, Public Enemy, Rakim was huge, Kool G Rap, etc. On the other side of things was Ninjaman, Shabba Ranks, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Teddy Riley, Marley Marl, The Beatles, but the list is long.
What’s the response been to the new single “I Like It, I Love It”?
Lyrics Born: It’s been great so far. The response has been great. The rock station out here has been playing it. It’s just starting to get going but so far the response has been fantastic man. Everybody seems to like the song so I’m very happy.
You released the third installment of the Lyrics Born Variety Show recently, what do fans get with that?
Lyrics Born: Anytime that I’m ready to release a full length album I release a Variety Show Mixtape so fans can see what I’ve been up to between albums. I like to give people a little sneak peek of what’s to come on the album.
It’s only $1.99 correct?
Lyrics Born: Not anymore. It’s not even for sale anymore we just took it down.
So basically anyone who purchased it has an exclusive.
Lyrics Born: Yup, that’s what it is man. We might make it available a little later but not right now. It’s basically only for the real core “Born Heads”. The major fans we gave that just to them as an exclusive. We may pull it out a little later but not right now.
How have you shifted your plan of attack now that music is mostly digital and sales aren’t what they used to be?
Lyrics Born: Definitely, you really have to. I’m not going to be one of these dudes who sits and complain about how things are and the good old days. That’s not the way I am – so I decided the internet is what it is, people are going to get the music the way that they get it. I decided to use the internet more as a tool and to our advantage as opposed to trying to slow it down. It’s not going to slow down, it’s only going to get faster, it’s only going to get more efficient and it’s always going to reach more people. My whole goal is to use the internet to our advantage as opposed to fighting it. Yeah we have shifted. We definitely have shifted without a doubt and I absolutely love it. I’m amazed daily at how much I can get done on the internet. You can reach your fans, I can do my own blogs, it’s changed the relationship the artists have with their fans and the world in general. It’s changed the dynamics between the label, the distributor and the artists and the consumer. I love it. I absolutely love it. Yes you sell less records now that you have downloads, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be big as an artist. You just have to be more focused, more disciplined and frankly you have to step up your game in the music aspect the most. The phrase is still the same, “The cream will always rise to the top”. That’s why I have to make sure that I give 110% on every single project. On everything I do or anything that has my name on it – I have to be the absolute best at it. If it’s not up to par people will hear about it before it’s time and they can kill your project before it comes out.
This is why I’m up on everything. I watch TV all the time, I’m always on the internet, I have subscriptions to about twenty magazines, I’m always buying music, I listen to the radio all the time and I’m a pop culture junkie I know what’s out there. I can honestly tell you without hesitation and 100% conviction you are not going to find an album like this anywhere else. This is the only album of its kind on the planet earth. I can say that with all honesty and conviction and I’m proud of that. That’s the thing, whenever I approach a project, I leave it all out there on the field. I’m swinging for the bleachers every single time I get to the plate. People expect that from me. They know my reputation and they know if I can’t make classics I don’t want to make records. People expect that from me, people expect me to be consistent and unpredictable and I’m not going to let us down. I built my reputation and I built my career on that and I can honestly say this is by far my best album, my best work to date that I have ever done.
What can you tell us about LBTV on your site LyricsBorn.com?
Lyrics Born: We started that because now with the internet things like this were unavailable to indie artist or most artists. If you wanted to be seen and wanted to have your voice heard outside of the music it was impossible. Now with the internet it’s great because my listeners have access to me anytime they want and I have access to them. I want people to have that access, I want to know my fans, I want to know who’s buying my records and I want to know who’s out there listening to my records. It’s a two way street. I have to be able to give people what they need to stay inspired and I need that feedback so I can stay inspired. I need other outlets than just music- it’s great. Like I told you it’s another one of those examples where we are using the internet to our advantage, we are just having fun and I love it.
In your past comments you brought up great points about how you are using the internet as a tool to work for you, rather than complain about the reasons it can work against you.
Lyrics Born: That’s the thing. There are a lot of people complaining about how the internet and the spread of information doesn’t give you control over things anymore and I disagree. I say you have more control over the way you are presented in your market and the way you are presented to the people. You have more control because I don’t leave it up to a label’s hands and I don’t leave it up to chance. I can get at my people right now and say exactly what it is I want to say. I think particularly for me I’ve been an independent artist my whole career. I’ve been called names, I’ve had descriptions given of me that I never came up with. I’ve had people say things about me over the course of my career that I had no control over and couldn’t stop. Well now you can hear me speak. Anybody has access and anybody can have a platform and that’s powerful. Another important point is that there have been a million reasons why I was told I would never make it. Whether it be you won’t make it because you’re an independent artist or you make different Hip Hop than everybody else. I turned that around and said you know what? The reason why I am going to make it is because I’m an independent artist and I make different Hip Hop than everybody else.
I’ve been told there are no Asian Americans in this business and I turned it around and said, “The reason I’m going to make it is because I’m an Asian American in this business”. I made an oath to myself early in my career that there is nothing on this planet that’s going to stop me from doing what I need to do and succeeding and exceeding expectations, or from making history and leaving a legacy. If the system is not going to work for me and the record industry is going down the tubes, let me go ahead and get on my own site and reach my fans directly. That’s really what it comes down to man. It’s not just me, anybody can do this. That’s the beauty of it all; the tools, the means, and the access is not limited to just the privileged few anymore. Anybody can do this. Having said that I don’t like seeing record stores going out of business. I don’t like seeing distributors going out of business and I don’t like seeing artists struggling and people struggling. I don’t like seeing that. I think what we need to do is regroup, figure out a direction that does work using the internet as a tool, start to fight it and figure out a way to make it work for you. Instead of trying to dwell on all the reasons it’s not working for you.
The album is going to be released on Epitaph/Anti- Records, how’d you hook up with them and why isn’t Quannum releasing it?
Lyrics Born: Well Quannum actually had a distribution deal through Anti- Records. One of them was putting out records through Anti- Records. My last studio album was distributed by Anti- Records. We all decided as Quannum that we wanted to focus on developing artists. I was no longer a developing artist and I was a full blown commercial entity. We just bumped it and Anti- Records picked it up and here we are. I still work with Quannum. I just produced Joyo’s Veladre’s album which is coming out through Quannum and I will continue to work with Quannum. The crew is still intact and I’m still a partner. I still own a piece of the rock, but this album is going to come out under a different entity.
You’ve had some really creative videos in the past; will there be any videos for this project?
Lyrics Born: Definitely. I’m actually reviewing treatments right now for “I Like it I Love it”. We’re going to come up with something good.
A lot of your music has appeared in video games, TV shows and other spots, what do you attribute that to?
Lyrics Born: I’ve just been very privileged. I’ve been very lucky and I always knew my music had the ability to reach millions of people. It’s just always been a question of opportunities. Now with our generations being involved in video games, TV, movies, commercials and our generation is choosing the music. You have a lot of big fans that are up there in EA Games, up at ad agencies and so forth that are just music fans. They are looking for new and creative ways of marketing their product that’s going to target their demographic they are looking for and they are very knowledgeable about music. They are fans, you know what I mean? That’s an avenue I’ve been fortunate enough to have people look out for me. I think there’s a lot to be said about the new phrase I’ve been hearing lately, “TV is the new Radio”. A lot of people are hearing music now through different avenues and it’s not just limited to radio. A huge part of my success has been because of commercials, games and some of the things you mentioned.
Will you be performing at South by Southwest this year?
Lyrics Born: Yes. I have two shows at South by Southwest this year. One is with Talib Kweli and Ice Cube and the next day is one with Bug Music.
What do you think of that festival overall?
Lyrics Born: I love it man. For me, if you’re a music lover you’re in heaven. You just get up and you watch shows for eight hours. I love it man. For me it’s really inspiring.
What are your touring plans for the album?
Lyrics Born: We are going to be doing a world tour. We are going to be hitting five continents starting in April in America, Europe, Australia, Asia and South America.
You spend a lot of time on the road. Do you get homesick or do you enjoy the experience?
Lyrics Born: Sure – I mean yeah, of course I get homesick. I miss my family and I miss sleeping in my own bed. I’m very fortunate because I love touring and I love to perform. My wife comes out on the road with me, Joyo Velarde, she’s been on stage with me. So my home is on the road when I go. Yeah, it does get difficult. It’s not easy. It’s fun but its hard.
What’s it like rocking with a live band as opposed to a regular DJ?
Lyrics Born: Honestly I like both mediums but for me. The live band was just the next step in my evolution as an artist. I’ve worked with a DJ and I still work with a DJ. I still perform with a DJ. I’ve performed with DJ’s for years, you know what I mean? For me like I said I need to stay inspired. In order to do that I need challenges and that’s where the band came in. That was about four years ago, and also at that time there were only a few hip hop artists working with bands. I took it upon myself to say, “Ok what’s going to set me a cut above the rest?” And that’s what it is.
You’ve toured all over the world, what country has given you the best reception? Why’d you decide to record the live album in Australia?
Lyrics Born: I love Australia man. Australia is like my second home. I think the vibe is very similar to California in my opinion. It has great weather, they love the music and they love to party. I think when you’re an artist and make the type of music that I make that’s a winning combination right there.
Do you have any other projects in the works? Will you and Lateef unite as Latyrx again?
Lyrics Born: Yeah that’s funny, he just texted me. Yeah I do want to do a Latyrx project. He’s working on the Mighty Underdogs with Gift of Gab right now. Hopefully sometime later this year or early 2009 we can start working on something like that.
You mentioned working on your wife Joyo Velarde’s album. Can you give us a little insight on that?
Lyrics Born: I’m really excited about her album. It’s fantastic man. It’s very soulful. If you like Soul it has so much scope and so much range. She’s doing everything from up-tempo bangers to ballads, singer songwriter stuff, more retro sounding stuff and all the way to the contemporary thing. It’s really dope man. I think she’s really going to blow a lot of people away with this album. I think she’s really showing what she’s capable of doing. She’s grown so much as a singer and an artist. She’s amazing.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Lyrics Born: Only that I’m just so proud that my fan base has stayed so loyal and has continued to grow. I’m just so thankful for that. In return for everything they have done for me I’ve delivered the best album that I possibly could and it’s the best album that I’ve ever made. I’m really excited for people to hear it.
What’s the date again for that for those who might not know?
Lyrics Born: April 22nd.