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Artist: Latyrx [Lateef & Lyrics Born]
Album: Latyrx The Album
Label: Solesides
Production: DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born, Chief Xcel
Guests: Joyo, Blackalicious
Stats: 1997, 14 tracks at 47mins:14secs
Reviewed by: Eitan Prince

Latyrx are Lateef the Truthspeaker and Lyrics Born, a duo that comes from the same musical background as producer DJ Shadow and another 'Left Coast' twosome, Blackalicious. Together they form the Solesides crew (later known as Quannum Projects). In pure musical terms, the crew has a reputation for pushing boundaries - from Shadow's seminal trip hop piece, 'Endtroducing', to Blackalicious' much sought-after 'Melodica' EP. And while each Solesides entity has its own defining characteristics, they are united in their approach to music which brashly suggests that they'll fuck with anything - from any genre - and mould it to their specifications.

"Latyrx The Album" has this kind of attitude written all over it. Drawing on production from Shadow, Blackalicious' Chief Excel and Lyrics Born's able skills, the album is an exploration of musical possibilities. The title track starts the album off in a most puzzling way as Lateef and Lyrics rhyme simultaneously, spewing forth a stream of consciousness that is almost overwhelming with the abstract music that accompanies it. This is not 'easy listening' stuff by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly challenges stereotypical approaches to producing rap music. At the same time the duo redefines the role of the MC's voice in rap music, using their voices not merely as the accompanying narrative, but as instruments. In the same vane, the pleasantly laidback 'Balcony Beach' - a Lyrics Born solo - is an introspective piece notable for LB's reflection and philosophising presented in an almost drunken mumble as he chews over his identity and old age (what?!).

The (relatively) less complex tracks, such as 'Say That', 'Aim For the Flickering Flame/Rankin' #1' and 'Bad News', allow for a more head-nodding experience balanced with the duo's wickedly entertaining lyrics. On the latter track, Lateef memorably speaks forth the following harsh truth: "I know it hurts/ there is no digestion worse/ than that which comes from having to eat your own words". To complete the listening experience, they also throw in a couple of freestyles and end the album with the super-charged 'Burning Hot In Cali On A Saturday Night'. This collaboration with Blackalicious simply and effectively relates the experience of preparing for live performances - a fitting tribute to that most vital aspect of the rap artist's livelihood.

Latyrx are talented 'musical hustlers' who have a definite feel for playing the lyrics and music game, and, as expected, they occasionally gamble and lose. 'Burnt Pride', for instance, is an unsuccessful attempt to at incorporating live instrumentation, while the demanding same-time rhyming of the title track doesn't really lend itself to repeated listening. However, the album contains more surprises than disappointments and I, personally, look forward to their second offering. [7.5/10]

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