California's Japanese Rap Star

Lyrics Born's latest addition to West Coast hip-hop.

Part of the underground West Coast hip-hop scene that spawned Jurassic 5 and Blackalicious, Tom Shimura, a.k.a. Lyrics Born, knows how to party. This Tokyo-born, California-bred rapper's exuberant debut album ranges from profane comedy (the telemarketing saga "Cold Call") to dazzling, rapid-fire displays of microphone prowess on "Rise and Shine." If Shimura's versatility sometimes seems overdone -- the reggaefied love song "Love Me So Bad" rubs elbows with the old-school bragfest "Pack Up" -- his spirit never flags. "Do That There," a vibrant dose of funk -- with Shimura's rough voice meshing with the thumping grooves -- is worth the price of admission alone.