Latyrx – The Quannum Project That Slipped Under The Radar | Krazed Music

The Album Book Cover The Album
August 25, 1997

Latyrx is the name for the duo of Chicago-based rappers that are Lyrics Born and Lateef The Truth Speaker. They are long-time collaborators, connected with names like DJ Shadow, Blackalicious, Jurassic 5 and Joyo Velarde. Unless you are a follower of underground US Hip-Hop, you might never have heard of these two lyrical maestros, but they are heavyweight rhymers with solid skills and a lot to say through their music. Both have released a number of quality solo albums, and Lyrics Born is also a beat-maker to boot, but the artistry and experimentation of the Latyrx project makes it stand out to me amongst their catalogs of work.

As a rapper/producer myself, I think the Latyrx album particularly appeals to me. It feels like an album of experimentation, where different rapping styles and mixing ideas come together over beats that often sound like they have come straight out of the twilight zone. There is also a performance aspect to it, in that some of the tracks are recorded as if they were live deliveries, and this gives you a sense of being immersed in the music. Lateef and LB sound like a pair of lyrical magicians as they weave in and out of the beats, with imperfections and moments of brilliance left in the takes for an effect of authenticity.

This begins immediately from the commencement of the first track. Lateef speaks the word ‘Latyrx‘, initiating a DJ Shadow beat that whips the listener up into the cosmos, before the two rappers begin spitting different verses simultaneously, each panned to one side. If you listen normally, you become overwhelmed with the stop-start lyrical approach that both emcees barrage you with. You can listen to one of them at a time if you focus only on one speaker, but the experience of the two verses unfolding on top of one another is not to be missed. The effect is trance-like; a result of the experimental approach of the two rappers and their producer, DJ Shadow. It is this approach to the album that makes it so exceptional, albeit a little hit-and-miss.

This breakdown of the first song goes a long way in summing up the whole album. Lateef and Lyrics Born generally take turns performing, whether it be for entire songs on their own or exchanging verses over a single song. The production is primarily handled by DJ Shadow and Lyrics Born himself, with Chief Xcel of Blackalicious chipping in on two songs. This is good stock to source from and, for the most part, the beats range from sound to really impressive.

Latyrx2 In any case, they possess a unique style, even when it is oversimplified in tracks like The Quickening; a track which, incidentally, showcases Lateef‘s breathtaking lyrical style in a way that sounds like a live performance. The same can be said of The Wreckoning, while Lyrics Born adopts a more lethargic, chilled approach for his delivery to contrast it with that of Lateef. There is also another brilliant experimental approach in Off With Their Heads, as Lateef comes to the end of his verse. The transition is done by gradually fading him out while slowly bringing up Lyrics Born‘s verse, meaning they intertwine seamlessly . It is as if we are hearing two voices from one mind; thus the Latyrx entity is conjured.

The problem is that some may not be satisfied with the style-over-substance approach that Latyrx takes to lyricism. It is debatable whether it is possible to combine lyrical complexity and high-speed, multi-syllable rhyme schemes with the kind of conscious content that some listeners demand. I feel like although the artists have definitely stuck to their principles of rapping about serious topics, they have opted to focus mainly on the musical style of the album. This is fine with me, but some may lament the lack of quotable lyrics and iconic hooks, while others may not be into the musical style and end up getting nothing out of the album at all. It is experimental; it is abstract; these are qualities to be admired from my point of view, but it is far from perfect. It was recorded early in the careers of everyone involved, and shows only bursts of the fully-rounded artists they would all become.

Overall, I recommend this album to any fans of experimental, progressive underground music, or fast, complex rap delivery. It is also an essential album for prospective rappers to learn from; the writing and delivery of these emcees is as good as that of any other rapper. If none of these things apply to you, you might not get much out of this album. As an experimental underground project, it is great, but it isn’t a masterpiece. The stop-start rapping styles that are so prominent throughout the album are a good metaphor for the album as a whole; some of the songs pop with energy and style, and there is some wonderful creativity and style at play, but at times things seem to drag and have you reaching for the ‘skip’ button. See for yourself; perhaps you’ll find something completely beyond what I’ve got out of this album.

Please feel free to share your thoughts about the album, or this review, with me via my Twitter profile. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more like this!

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