On his fifth release, Bay Area emcee Lyrics Born continues his reign as a rapper with a distinctively smooth and soulful delivery. This time, though, he's decided to take us on a pop-influenced musical journey that's heavily drenched in the sounds of 1980s funk and synth pop. It's well done, but an acquired taste. I can't say I love it, mostly because rehashing the '80s comes across as more corny than inventive these days.
That's not to say there aren't jaw-dropping moments, particularly the tracks grounded in hip hop. "I've Lost Myself" is a somber-yet-endearing tale of the toils of life that features mournful violin melodies and the gorgeous pipes of vocalist Joyo Velarde. "Oh Baby!" is also pure gold, with fast rhymes spit under a snappy syncopated groove. Other tunes, like "Kontrol Phreak" and "Lies X3," are lyrically on point, but a tad too radio-friendly and retro to feel fresh.
I'm all for artists aiming to evolve their sound and style, but part of me hopes Lyrics Born taps deeper into his musical roots during the next go around.
Lyrics Born plays the Top Hat Sunday, Oct. 31, with Chali 2na and Rakaa. $25/$20 advance at Ear Candy, Rockin Rudy's and seafarerentertainment.com.