Back in 1995, Bay Area rap was at the big-ballin' peak of the mobb music craze, LA was chronically gripped in a G-funk indo smoke haze, Atlanta was enjoying its Southernplayalistic days, and NYC was entering a shiny-suit phase. There was no frame of reference for two lyrical emcees experimenting with the tonality and resonance of rhyme patterns.
This was uncharted territory.
The pairing of Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truthspeaker into Latyrx was "an accident," LB recalls. Both emcees were solo artists, but when LB heard the pre-Endtroducing DJ Shadow beat which would become Latyrx' eponymous debut single, his reaction was, "Oh my God, I gotta get on this."
"Latyrx" was a syllabic tour de force which began with two dissonant voices -- one gruff and bassy, the other higher-pitched and trebly, both hella fluid -- it transmogrified into a harmonic convergence of doubled verses simultaneously assaulting eardrums. Undeniably, it was great... but weird. "It was ill," Lateef recalls. "We really felt like we had something unlike anyone else had done," he adds.
Latyrx' first and thusfar, only, full-length, 1997's Latyrx: the Album, "set the tone for what Solesides and Quannum would do," LB recalls, while 1998's Muzappers Mixes EP spawned one of the only feminist-affirming club bangers in hip-hop history, "Lady Don't Tek No."
Though Latyrx never officially broke up, after Muzappers, both members followed their chosen paths to considerable solo success. Yet no matter how much acclaim each attained individually, the notion of someday making another Latyrx record was always present. "It's probably the number one thing I got asked about in my career," LB says.
14 years (!) after the release of Latyrx: the Album, LB and Lateef have finally answered the prayers of long-starved fans who have begged, pleaded and, by now, tweeted about the possibilities of a reunion. An impromptu Latyrx set at a 2010 Jazz Mafia concert at San Francisco's Mezzanine led to an appearance at 2011's Outside Lands festival, Google's Summer Concert Series (they were the first hip-hop act to perform) and a last minute appearance as part of HITRECORD At The Movies -- a unique film and music traveling showcase curated and hosted by actor and artist Joseph Gordon-Levitt. More shows, new songs including "Hardship Enterprise", which appears on Lateef's solo debut, Firewire, a mixtape (to be called Latyrical Madness Vol. 1) and, possibly, a new album.
What Latyrx brings to the table is a technical difficulty level rare these days in hip-hop and matched only by a few groups in the genre's entire history: Run-DMC, Jurassic 5, Blackstar, Freestyle Fellowship. Their challenging, intricate back-and forth arrangements evoke a lyrical version of bebop, with layer upon layer of rhythmic syncopation and vocal patterning constantly pushing the envelope.
"We have a good chemistry and it's kind of unique," Lateef says. "We step up each others' game content, and both of us push each other in the originality department."
"What we've talked about is very simply, picking up where we left off," LB explains. The return of Latyrx stands as Very Good News for true hip-hop fans, lyrical aficionados, boom-bap beatniks, urban bohemians, wee tots in Reeboks, and Muzappers of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages.