ALBUM REVIEW/Matt Oliver

Lyrics Born ‘Mobile Homies Season 1’

(Mobile Home Recordings)

Despite the title sounding something like a caravanning show found on Channel 5, Mobile Homies from Bay Area veteran Lyrics Born makes the most of lockdown restrictions as a collaborative collection fleshing out LB’s purpose-made podcast of the same name. Much more than just a make-do stopgap, it salutes the long established Lyrics Born mantra of performance being all about entertainment and extravaganza. No variant will hold him back, manoeuvring the live show experience as a soul/R&B spectacular where you can imagine a stage filled with backing singers and musicians, spotlights and catwalks, and the promise of good, clean fun or your money back; all the while looking more and more the sharp suited fly guy to rank him alongside the likes of Bruno Mars, Andre3000 and Anderson .Paak.  

Born has long held one of the most serious flows in the game, cultivating singsong flamboyance (“my shows are like a party for a bachelorette”) as a people’s champ with unquestionable underground-educated skills and a voice once sold as “like sandpaper dipped in maple syrup”. Here, his lowness (for want of a better description) into the mic is less a Chali 2na-style baritone (the stiffer delivery on ‘Misfits’ aside), but a rat-a-tat amplified whisper, an almost monotone, always chill, malleable flow from the deepest vocal chord that allows him to be cyborg-like, possessed by playing games with syllables. Contrarily, it also enables the persona of a dead-eyed charmer sans ego or sleaze, his silver-tongued devilry akin to the Fonz clicking his fingers. 

Amongst the lovey-dovey expressions where heartthrob-served butter wouldn’t melt – back and forthing with himself on the Netflix & Chill-ready ‘Everyday Love’ with Prince Paul providing perky foreplay on production; cutting in on the super polished, Con Brio-lead performances of ‘Sundown’ and ‘Mistakes’ causing ‘Hey Ya’! levels of hysteria, possibly involving underwear removal – is the seething racism exposé of ‘Anti’. A tensely humid, low rider ball of high pressure agitation, brought to the fore from behind the pandemic smokescreen and pierced by Cutso’s wheezing siren infuriating like a fly out of swatting reach, it packs a chorus that intelligently dares you to holler back from the front row. Crucially in the face of such provocation, LB’s flow, taking his cue from Dr Dre’s ‘The Watcher’, is masterful in never losing its cool, its points further rammed home by Shing02, Bohan Phoenix and Dilated PeoplesRakaa on the remix. 

In terms of routine it’s almost like LB asking for the house lights to be turned on and the band to hold fire, with the final track remix providing the encore so you definitely won’t forget the message; the savagery of this uncensored PSA under a blood red spotlight a showstopper without stopping the show dead. While not quite a case of the show must go on, ‘This Song’s Delicious’ with Sitcom Dad and Dan the Automator arrives from the Paul Barman school of jaunty verbosity doing chucklesome show-n-prove, developed from Netflix band Hello Peril from the film Always Be My Maybe. ‘Desperada’ takes the feeling of sand between your toes into the club, and ‘My City’, displaying wistful hometown pride with enough matriarchal room for interpretation, poignantly features his late Soulsides comrade and Blackalicious lifer Gift of Gab.

Enter another pertinent state-of-the-world address, this one packed with Instagram filters fiending for those thumbs ups. Over a nifty first generation grime production that Ghetts, Kano or Taz would have rinsed, ‘Enough About Me’ gets trending to the tune of crowds showing pixellated appreciation while literally keeping the action at arm’s length. Guests The Grouch and Eligh attempt to differentiate between projected and actual reality; LB does the opposite, going into overdrive like a big bucks hype machine (“I don’t want privacy, I want all y’all to see/selfie-selfie-selfie, I’m my own paparazzi”)and knowing the only way to avoid fading into obscurity is to dive in twice as hard.

While the zoom call intermissions with his collaborators quickly become skippable, the sound is so rich and accomplished (as standard), with impressive divergence, that even if the album wasn’t completely conceived over Microsoft Teams, it’s a great demonstration of how Lyrics Born can play second fiddle before stealing the show, and solidifying his claim as a great entertainer still remaining underrated.

 

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