Wow, Northern Cali rap dudes have got the voices: Too $hort, E-40, Keak Da Sneak, Gift of Gab, Shock G. Add to that list the husky, funky, pimpish aside of Lyrics Born — that distinctive vocal timbre is his best friend (and, unfortunately, the single shred of consistency) on the new Anti- Records release Everywhere At Once.
To be clear, when Lyrics shakes off the schizophrenia that plagues the better part of this album and the beat gels with his words, he’s enjoyable. The early going bubbles with positive energy and a sound that takes note of everything from the Bay Area’s current hyphy movement to more established influences like Parliament-Funkadelic. Track four, the snaking, nodding, R&B flavored “Differences”, may be the album’s best. Shortly thereafter though, the album goes on a bit of a bender from which it never truly recovers. Beginning with the hollered out, Cee Lo style “I Like It, I Love It”, Lyrics starts to throw himself at tracks that sound like discarded concepts from other artists. Instead of appreciating Mr. Born’s attempt to diversify one might be more inclined to wonder, “How did this R. Kelly/Akon cast-off wind up on a Lyrics Born album?” (“Top Shelf”), or “Could Andre 3000 have pulled this off?” (pop wobbler “Do You Buy It?”), or “Hey, could we just pretend that this is a Kanye song?” (“The World Is Calling”).
Of course, Lyrics has thrown up firewalls against these criticisms — way back on “Don’t Change” he notes that some have previously nay-sayed his musical experiments. But, there’s experimentation and then there’s lack of solid direction (or possibly pandering). Sometimes, Everywhere At Once is really just all over the place.