Latyrx: Still Deft And Defiant After Two Decades

Latyrx's new record, The Second Album, is out now. i i

hide captionLatyrx's new record, The Second Album, is out now.

Courtesy of the artist
Latyrx's new record, The Second Album, is out now.

Latyrx's new record, The Second Album, is out now.

Courtesy of the artist

It's been 17 years between albums for the Bay Area alt-rap duo Latyrx. Oakland-born Lateef Daumont is a Black Panther's son who raps as Lateef the Truthspeaker, while Tokyo-born Tom Shimura, a banker's son, raps as Lyrics Born. In 1996, they collaborated on The Album, a gorgeous and contemplative record. Then, they went their solo ways for almost two decades. Now, finally, they've brought forth what is hands-down the alt-rap album of the year.

Thumbing its nose at know-nothings who still believe that rapping isn't music, Latyrx's The Second Album is launched by two rabble-rousing speeches that are musical in themselves.

The new album works to vary the rappers' contrasting flows — not just with basic beats, but with a wealth of melodic elements. These come mostly from the West Coast hip-hop underground. But two remarkable tracks were produced by tUnE-yArDs' Merrill Garbus; the liquid "Watershed Moment" evokes the elixir of life in more ways than one.

Latyrx's members aren't kids anymore — The Second Album is what we inevitably call "mature." But for Latyrx, maturity is an occasion for fresh invention, from a song where rumors about a lost cat kick off an anti-terrorism initiative to a gun control number in which patriots in powdered wigs load their muskets one bullet at a time.

Lateef is the activist firebrand; Lyrics Born the one-step-at-a-time philosopher of moderation and what he calls "entrepreneurial spirit." But both make it their business to look forward. The Second Album is life-affirming, with a force few artists in any genre can match.

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