LYRICS BORN with CUT CHEMIST at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), Monday (November 6). 8 pm. $19.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
There's a good reason why many hiphop stars never release live recordings - rap karaoke performances just don't translate very well to an audio medium. So while many hiphop artists have enough empathy for the people buying their recordings to spare them from suffering through tedious call-and-response audience participation shtick, Lyrics Born must assume his loyal fans are made of sterner stuff.
He doesn't care that there was an abundance of "throw your hands in the air" and "everybody say oww-oww" prompts before and during many of the songs he performed at his recent Australian tour stops in Sydney and Melbourne. He left all that stuff on his new live release, Overnite Encore: Lyrics Born Live! (Quannum).
Evidently, the fact that the vast majority of his contemporaries have sensibly decided against putting out discs documenting their concert performances was part of his reason for going ahead with it. Well, that and not having his new studio album finished.
"Around the time the last album came out last year," says Lyrics Born over a cellphone after a sound check, "we were playing some shows in Australia that got taped. So I thought, 'Hell, while I'm working on the new album, why not put this stuff out?' Because there really aren't that many live hiphop albums - or live albums recorded in Australia by American artists period. Performing is such a big part of what I do, so it seemed like a live recording was the way to go.
"And I'm a co-owner of Quannum so I release what I want.
"My whole thing is about not doing the same thing that everyone else is doing. When I make albums, I take a good long look at the landscape and figure out what other artists are doing and then try something completely different."
Admittedly, few rappers perform with hard-cranking funk-rock bands as Lyrics Born has on tour for the past two years, and having a talented vocalist like Joyo Velarde on hand to sing the hooks definitely adds to the experience.
Yet it's a bit surprising to find that at a time when everyone and his dog from the Bay Area - including his pal DJ Shadow - are recording hyphy tracks to cash in on the hot fad in northern California, he's tacked on a hyphy-inspired track L-I-F-E, featuring hyphy rapper Mistah F.A.B., at the end of Overnite Encore.
"I don't know if I'd say that's a hyphy track. I work with F.A.B. because I think he's a dope MC, you know what I mean? I love what's happening in the Bay Area right now - it's huge for our area, and just a great thing, but I don't know if I'll record a hyphy album.
"I do Lyrics Born albums and that's whatever I feel like doing. I may pull in some of this and a little of that and maybe do some tracks with people who work in different genres, but ultimately I just do my own thing."