Latyrx's first full-length release, The Album, was as sonically inventive as it was overlooked -- which makes sense, since it was hardly ever in print during its first five years of existence. Enough people heard the record to make it something of an underground legend, but its potential influence wound up unfortunately limited, especially given how forward-looking the music on The Album is. It represents a major step for the Solesides (later Quannum) collective in replacing the Hieroglyphics as the Bay Area's most adventurous underground crew. Mates DJ Shadow and Blackalicious' Chief Xcel both produce several tracks on The Album, with Shadow helming the groundbreaking experiment "Latyrx" (which also provided the catalyst for an album release). Both MCs recorded individual raps, which were then laid on top of one another in separate audio channels. Since both are heard simultaneously, and aren't interacting, it's almost impossible to follow either Lateef's or Lyrics Born's individual flows, but it makes for a startling cumulative effect -- it's vocal hip-hop as pure sonic texture. Nothing else is quite as avant-garde as "Latyrx," but there's a lot of highly progressive use made of electronics; the most attention-grabbing productions are built on spacy trip-hop beats, ambient synth textures, or burbling, minimal computer funk (with a couple of jazz-funk and dancehall-style cuts thrown in for good measure). Actually, despite the big-name backup, Lyrics Born produces the majority of the tracks on the album, and is just as responsible for its musical direction; he's also the more distinctive MC, growling, muttering, skanking like a reggae toaster, and half-singing his lines at times. Excellent early solo singles by both MCs ("The Quickening," "Balcony Beach," "Burnt Pride") sit alongside a few new offerings -- disappointingly few, actually, since it takes live cuts, freestyles, and interludes just to pad The Album past 45 minutes. Still, its key tracks are nothing short of visionary, making it an essential listen.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Huey