Let’s hop right into this lead single, “Diamond Door” — Tell me about this particular track; how did it...
Let’s hop right into this lead single, “Diamond Door” — Tell me about this particular track; how did it come to fruition?
I wouldn’t say “came into fruition.” I would say, it “came into full bloom.” Lol. The whole album is a psychedelic fantasy ride, and so I wanted to make and create a song about oral pleasure that was so Fantasmic and imagery filled, without actually mentioning what it was we’re eating, ahem, or dealing with.
Of course “Diamond Door” comes courtesy of your forthcoming solo LP, Vision Board — Conceptually, what does that title represent both to and for you?
To me, Vision Board represents all the things I was seeing in my mind and imagination during those darkest times in the isolation of quarantine…some thoughts and feelings I was forced to sit with and explore, others I wanted to escape from and create something so beautiful, colorful and outlandish, and that it would transport myself and the listener far far away from that space.
How then does Vision Board either differ and / or compare to previous Lyrics Born entries?
It’s far more fantasy-based and exploratory, yet much more concise and less self-censoring. I’m in a different place mentally, spiritually and, if you haven’t noticed, physically [LB lost 65 pounds, going from 220 to 155] than I was pre-pandemic, and I wanted to embrace and explore all of that.
Vision Board is a Mobile Homes project — What particular string of events actually led to your current signing?
I’ve been an independent artist my entire career, from SoleSides to Quannum Projects, to Anti / Epitaph, Mass Appeal, and for the past 10+ years, my own label Mobile Home Recordings, exclusively. I make the records that I want, release them on the schedule that I want, and I have full ownership and control of my entire catalog. It’s fucking awesome! For a left-of-center Asian American artist, this has been an amazing story that could only have been written by a divine hand.
As a lyricist, when you sit down to pen your rhymes where do you draw your inspiration from?
For Vision Board, it was whatever came to mind. I literally set no boundaries, nor did I do any second-guessing or self-censorship. I did my absolute best to be as stream of consciousness and free thinking as it is, yet still keeping in my tradition of writing the most insanely hooky hooks, top 10 caliber bars, rhyme-schemes, punchlines, metaphors and melodies.
Reflecting, tell me your whole inception into music — When did you first become interested in it? And, how did it all begin for Tsutomu “Tom” Shimura?
It all started with Hip Hop and bark for me as a first or second grader in the ‘80’s. The moment I heard The Sugarhill Gang as a second grader, I knew exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life.
Now you are a native of Berkeley, CA, by way of Tokyo, Japan, correct? So growing up in ‘Berzerkeley,’ who all did / do you consider to be your strongest musical influences?
James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Kool G Rap, Rakim, KRS-One, Too $hort, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, Freestyle Fellowship, Hieroglyphics, De La, Rick James, Prince, George Clinton…the list goes on and on…
In having said that, how do you classify your overall sound and / or style?
Call Chi, cosmic, classic and unlike any other artist. Period.
Switching gears here…
What do you feel has been the key to your longevity?
The key to my longevity is that I’m eternally curious. Ideas, thoughts and inspiration appear out of nowhere, grab a hold of me and won’t let go until I get them formed. The moment I stop acting as that conduit, I suppose that’s when I will quit. But my new life goal is to be 100 years old. So, God willing that won’t end anytime soon.
What do you want people to get from your music?
I hope it helps people with their daily lives, whatever that may look like. Whether it gives you respite from a difficult day or life moment, provides you with some insight that you may not have previously had, whether it helps you articulate certain thoughts and feelings you couldn’t on your own and, most importantly, if it makes you dance.
On a more serious note, are you happy with the current state of Hip Hop?
To be honest with you, my thoughts and feelings are irrelevant in this regard. Music is and always will simply…be. I have very little control over what other people create; I feel it’s just important that as many of us are as authentically creative as possible, whatever that looks like. I can tell you I really love what I’m doing right now. I’m in the best form of my life on so many levels.
Do you have any other outside / additional aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?
I love staying creative. Whether that’s more movies, more cooking like what I do with Dinner In Place on my Instagram page, and more collaborations with other artists, craftsman, foodies and fashion designers. I’m a serial collaborator, and I love working with others.
To date, what has been your greatest career moment(s), at least thus far anyway?
My greatest career moment has been far longer than just a moment. Next year will mark my 30 year anniversary as a professional, which is highly unusual in any occupation, let alone as an Asian-American in the entertainment business. What I’ve done has been nothing short of iconic-iconic, being a pioneer and the first ever, in so many categories, and I’m not slowing down anytime soon. Like I said, the hundred year life challenge is real, cannot be documented as a 15 second dance on social media.
What’s an average day like for you?
Challenging, creative, fatherhood, time and money management and devoting a lot of time to my imagination.
Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans…
I love interacting with fans. I’m so fortunate everybody is so genuine with me. It’s a trip, when people have listened to your music for three decades, you develop relationships with them through your work. All of the stories people have relayed to me have been so real, heartwarming and inspiring. It adds a whole ‘nother layer of importance to what I do.
What is your favorite part about this line of work? Your least favorite? And, why?
I love traveling, I love being able to have the freedom to express myself on my own terms & on my own label, and in lime green leather pants, pearl earrings and a shit ton of vintage gold chains. The hardest part is the time away from friends and family. I take fatherhood extremely seriously and it’s difficult to be away for extended periods of time.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
All of that is discussed on Vision Board, and a song called “Who’s The Best? (Dear Young LB).” Bars like “Think different, Speak different, go on baby, be different, rigid definition ain’t caught up to where you be at present. How people receive you, or see you, has more to do with who they are, not who you are. Deep breaths.”
What’s up with Latyrx and / or Quannum MCs?
Lateef and Chief XCel and I talk all the time. Gab has unfortunately passed on, and the triumvirate is still grieving / reeling. We will push forward though, as he would want it.
Lastly, what’s next for Lyrics Born [Formerly Asia Born]?
More expansion creatively. I will continue to build things. It’s legacy time now!
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