There are some albums that you are just supposed to love. They're usually thematically rich, musically complex and possessed of a singular vision that requires you to abandon preconceptions and just ride the musical train. Sadly, few people actually love these records, opting instead to "appreciate" them. From the evocative cover art to the dense, forward-looking music contained within, it seems that Tom Shimura -- aka Lyrics Born -- has made exactly that type of record: the endlessly dissectable, eminently insular and poundingly progressive critics' darling. "Later That Day" ... is full of new and brave ideas about 21st-century hip-hop, having been crafted by Shimura -- alone -- over an agonizingly long period of time. After his stunning work as part of the West Coast collaborative Latyrx, it was expected that LB would debut with a strong record. Evidently aware of those expectations, it's clear that he made sure every second of every song is the best it could possibly be. But -- and this is a huge "but" -- this album also happens to be that rare example of the "critics' darling" that is as viscerally entertaining as it is intellectually rewarding. Never forgetting that hip-hop's genius lies in mutations of the beat, Shimura doesn't let his perfectionism detract from the emotional thrill of the music. To that end, he piles thick-ass funk lines under every track and, whether it's the hand-clapping joy of "Calling Out" or The Meters-inspired double time supporting the P-Funk chorus of "Stop Complaining," the album is joyously, recklessly fun. That attitude is also reflected in LB's lyrics (surprise!) which, though mind-bendingly dense and thoughtful, are rooted in everyday concerns (there's the concept, y'all). Delivered in his peculiar style, veering from tongue-twisted to on-the-one to sleepy-eyed and laconic, Shimura's found a way to twist the dope-smoking-on-the-couch attitude of Basehead's first album into a hip-hop "Sign o' the Times." And it's the best hip-hop album you'll hear in 2003. (Lyrics Born performs at The Social, Thursday, Oct. 30, as part of the "Calicomm 2003 Tour" with Ugly Duckling, Abstract Rude and others.)
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