Lyrics Born

Everywhere at Once

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Bay Area rapper Lyrics Born has never followed -- or tried to follow -- the typical musical route, first with his work with Lateef as Latyrx and continuing though his decision to back himself with a funk band during his shows, even releasing a live album (a rare thing in hip-hop) in 2006. Not content, apparently, to rest on the platform he made for himself, the Anti-issued Everywhere at Once moves even further away from the idea of the producer/MC team, using a band and plenty of background vocals to create something that ends up sounding a lot more like Gnarls Barkley's latest proclamation than anything rap related. Melody's of utmost importance here, so much so that Lyrics Born's already-singsongy rapping becomes nearly undistinguishable from the sung parts, to which he, his wife Joyo Velarde, and a cadre of others perform. It's not that he can't deliver on vocals, but as the first half of album plays as an almost-continuous track, with the instrumental parts hardly changing from song to song, Everywhere at Once takes on the regrettable feel of the new wave of jam bands, one on which the rapper gives his usual spiel on how he's persevered, which honestly, three albums in, is starting to get a little tired. To his credit, as things progress, Lyrics Born does incorporate new sounds and ideas, but unfortunately these decisions don't always end up being good ones. "Do U Buy It?," for example, is an awkward "Funplex"-era B-52's rip-off and "Top Shelf" is only lacking a vocoder to be the next T-Pain hit. He's all over the place (similarly to Snoop on the equally messy Ego Trippin'), from slow-drawled rhymes to faster funk pieces, which means that when something does come together -- the slow, jazzy "The Skin I'm In" or the perfect Odd Couple-complement "I Can't Decide (Everywhere at Once)" -- it seems accidental, even haphazard, that given enough chances something good's got to come out. Lyrics Born has always gotten by on being casually himself, no matter what he's doing, and that's in fact why Everywhere at Once doesn't work: it doesn't seem like Lyrics Born anymore. Sure, there are moments of personal insight and catchy hooks, but the album seems forced, the efforts of someone who's become so concerned with breaking out of boxes that he's forgotten sometimes, he still needs one to hold things in. In doing so, sadly, Everywhere at Once is reminiscent of what's already been done, either by the rapper himself or by another artist, almost derivative of itself, and as a whole, altogether disappointing.

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