From the Sugarhill Gang to David Bowie, Lyrics Born's musical evolution - Reverb

Long and Winding Road: Lyrics Born

Bay-area rapper Lyrics Born took influence from the Sugarhill Gang and David Bowie, among others.

Bay-area rapper Lyrics Born took influence from the Sugarhill Gang and David Bowie, among others.

Do you remember your first record? Your first concert? Your favorite artist from when you were that pizza face in sixth grade? Well this isn’t about that. This Long and Winding Road is about three artists/records that influenced you over the years – you as a musician, Tsutomu “Tom” Shimura, a.k.a. Lyrics Born, playing a gajillion in Colorado in the next two weeks – including Durango, Telluride, Breckenridge, Steamboat, Vail, Denver and Fort Collins. (Click here to see them all.) So let’s talk about your road.

“I just remember wanting to be an artist and performer since I was very young. I was very lucky because I learned what turned me on very early on. I don’t know what I would have done had I gone through my life not knowing what my passion was.”

5 years old

“I remember being in kindergarten and hearing the Sugarhill Gang for the first time. That was probably the single-most monumental event in my development because I always knew that I wanted to be an artist or a performer, but until I had heard Sugarhill Gang, which introduced me to rap obviously, it was unclear what kind of artist I wanted to be. That was the turning point in my life at which I decided I was going to be a hip-hop artist.”

12 years old

“I heard David Bowie as I got older. I realized that I don’t have to make the same album over and over again, and that it is possible for artists to continually change. I think when I heard the Sugarhill Gang, it make me want to be a hip-hop artist. And when I heard David Bowie, it made me want to be a musician, period – taking it even further, he inspired me to have the inspiration and drive to go beyond people’s expectations, or even my expectations.

15 years old

As I developed as a rapper, there were two more. The first time I heard Rakim, I was blown away. Because as far as I was concerned, he invented modern rap. You didn’t have to scream anymore. You didn’t have to yell. It wasn’t about that anymore. He ushered in the modern era in hip-hop. It was sophisticated and his delivery was different, and it showed what the possibilities were.

18 years old

Lastly, Ninjaman has to be in there. He’s the guy – the rawness, candidness, eccentricity – that moved me. I was inspired by his left-of-centerness.

Follow our news and updates on Twitter, our whereabouts on Foursquare and everything else on Facebook. Or send us a telegram.

Ricardo Baca is the founder and co-editor of Reverb and an award-winning critic and journalist at The Denver Post.