Breaking boundaries 

Lyrics Born embodies what is good about hip-hop. Lyrics Born is tight, groovy, funky. Lyrics Born is crass and class. Lyrics Born observes, comments, engages the listener in conversation. Lyrics Born brings artistry and conscience to the mic. Lyrics Born sounds and feels good.

And Lyrics Born is just getting started.

"Yeah, I think we’re taking this to a whole other level," says Tom Shimura, aka Lyrics Born, on his way to a concert in Boston, one of the 150 or so shows he does in a year. "I have a live album coming out in October, I’m producing an album due out this February. Endless possibilities."

The Berkeley-based Shimura’s career has been rising ever since Live 105 got ahold of his single, "Callin’ Out," which listeners made one of the station’s most popular songs. It turned on a host of listeners tohip-hop’s intriguing possibilities, and earned Shimura a legion of new fans. It may seem odd that a hip-hop artist got a boost from an alt-rock station, but Shimura doesn’t see it that way.

"Musical tastes are different today," Shimura says, "especially among younger listeners. They want to listen to everything. People are more open-minded when it comes to music, in part because the Internet and such has made music more accessible."

But Shimura is far from an overnight sensation, having worked the Bay Area hip-hop scene for more than a decade. He put his experience to good use in crafting his two albums, "Later That Day …" and the follow-up, "Same !@#$ Different Day."

"In some ways, I’m always working," he says, "you have to pay attention and be open. When I first got into production, hip-hop was all sample based. You realized that the samples could come from anywhere. It leaves you with every possibility — reggae and rock and R&B and blues, you name it. Along the way, you gain an appreciation and a knowledge that you bring with you."

Shimura also is quick to credit his Bay Area upbringing with shaping the ideas he brings to his trade.

"I grew up here, surrounded by all different sorts of people, all sorts of ideas," he says. "It has shaped my personal attitude. I feel I can bring the music anywhere, anywhere in the world, to any group of people. I’ve been all over the world now, and the response is great wherever I go."

Working with the artist-owned label Quannum ("a record company that just makes good records — imagine that," he says) gives Shimura the freedom to do as he chooses and collaborate with others freely — a quality almost unique to the hip-hop genre.

"I don’t understand why other artists don’t collaborate more," he says. "Hip-hop is so accessible, so user-friendly — you don’t need to take guitar lessons, piano lessons or be classically trained. It’s not exclusive to anybody, and it changes quickly. Anyone can learn. It’s an informal, spontaneous artform."

And Lyrics Born is at ease with his work and his burgeoning stardom.

"I like to do it all — the producing, the performing. I try to find a balance — I get cranky if I’m in the studio for too long." Shimura says. "But it’s not work when you love the music as much as I do. And I just can’t help but think this is the beginning of things. We’ll see, won’t we?"

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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