You may be wondering how to pronounce the name of Latyrx, the pairing of Bay Area emcees Lateef the Truth Speaker and Lyrics Born. Well, it’s kinda like “satyr,” except with an “X” on the end, an “L” on the front, and the “S” gone. Something like that.
Anyway, while Company Flow was over in NYC creating completely left-field music that hocked a green loogie in the eye of the mainstream, Latyrx was doing similar things on the West Coast. Lateef and Lyrics Born originally met up as members of Solesides, a musical collective out University of California Davis which included notable members DJ Shadow and Blackalicious. Together, Latyrx were driven to make rap on their own terms, which meant smart rhymes and experimental, lo-fi production, much of it hooked up by Lyrics Born, DJ Shadow, and Chief Xcel of Blackalicious. In 1997, right when rap was at its most blingy, they released The Album, which featured some really eyebrow-raising listens. Though not as hostile as Company Flow’s debut, The Album is an engaging, fairly inaccessible listen which opens up with repeated plays. Nowadays, the record is hailed as a classic.
Case in point of this album’s greatness is the record’s opening track, “Latyrx,” which is so fucking weird. One of hip-hop’s weirdest intros, possibly ever. The track kicks off with both Lyrics Born and Lateef rapping different verses at the same damn time, creating a brilliantly jarring and wondrous introduction which is genius because it forces you to listen to the track at least three times to really understand it (Once to go “WTF” repeatedly, and two more times to hear each rapper’s verse). I guess they couldn’t figure out who would rap first! This one still hits me over the head in how unique and proudly out there it is. I really can’t wrap my head around it!