Remix albums aren’t supposed to be this coherent, this exciting, this essential. But Tom Shimura — a.k.a. Lyrics Born, baby — loves going against conventional hip-hop wisdom. Thrives on it, actually. His debut, 2003’s Later That Day… — which provides most of the source material for Same !@#$ Different Day — was the best album of that year because it went so brilliantly and creatively against the grain. How about that opener, the hip-hop blues anthem “Bad Dreams”? Or the phone conversation-cum-rap duet? Or the dizzyingly assonant sixteen-line verse in “Do That There” (“And then I slipped on a banana, landed on a hammock in Havana sipping on a can of apple Fanta”)?
If Same !@#$ Different Day isn’t the masterpiece Later That Day… was, it’s only because of their respective forms: the latter a carefully constructed, conceptually coherent day-in-the-life saga, the former a mere remix album. Yet even if Same !@#$ isn’t the next leap forward for Lyrics Born, there’s nothing mere about it. For one thing, it’s generous: the five brand-new songs are terrific, and all but two of the Later That Day… remixes feature re-recorded vocals, often with new verses. The man can’t contain himself; he’s always fine tuning, probably because he plainly loves this music. As he notes on “Pack Up Remix”: “I could make any music that I want but I make hip-hop.”
Considering the fifteen tracks feature eleven different productions credits, including Dan the Automator, DJ Shadow and Morcheeba/Capricorn II, the music achieves a remarkably consistent tone (Bay Area booty-funk) and quality (high). It’s at least as fun to listen to as Later That Day…, with Lyrics Born’s voice and lyrics as strong as ever. He’s just to listen to: he exhorts, he complains, he gets really pissed off, he reminisces, he boasts (hilariously: compared to yours, Lyrics Born’s lyrical skills are like “Sly Stallone in Rocky versus Sly Stallone in Copland“).
And you’d better believe he repeats that there assonance gimmick on “Do That There (Young Einstein Hoo-Hoo Mix),” same shit, different vowel sound. Take it from: “I met a hermit named Kermit McDermott with a learner’s permit/ Curb surfin’ in a purple Suburban.” If you care at all about hip-hop, get a hold of Later That Day…. Once you’ve digested that, consider picking up Same !@#$ for dessert.