Latyrx, aka Lateef the Truthspeaker and Lyrics Born, is one of the great slept-on rap groups of the late ’90s. Their debut full-length, The Album, was an angry, sociopolitical rhymefest, a lost classic that’s improved with age. But, the duo took a hiatus from Latyrx to pursue solo careers after releasing the record. Fans have had to chew on the same album for the past 15 years (even longer than fellow alt-rap group Deltron 3030′s break), but Lateef and Lyrics Born have revived Latyrx for that long-awaited sophomore LP, The Second Album.
Considering the duo’s typical subject matter, there’s a sense that Lateef and Lyrics were waiting for the right time to rejoin, for a time of relative political chaos and cultural unrest, when their words — often acerbic and opinionated — would resonate the most. On opener “Arrival”, the two trade off on the mic like it’s a podium and they’re giving motivational speeches. Each talks optimistically about hope and how things are improving, an interesting move as the songs that follow paint a bleak picture of modern life in America. Is Latyrx trying to instill some faith in the listener before exposing hard truths? Or is the intro an ironic stab at rah-rah political leaders who usually bury such truths beneath similar “all-is-well” speeches?
The Second Album follows the same template as Latyrx’s debut, gathering a variety of producers and talent to guide the songs in different directions. There’s smooth, jazzy arrangements (the Forrest Day-produced “Exclamation Point”) to compliment Lyrics Born’s equally smooth flow, and tUnE-yArDs handles a pair of spazzy tracks (“Deliberate Jibberish” and “Watershed Moment”) that let Lateef execute his mile-a-minute rhyming. Occasionally the duo gets overbearingly partisan (the heavy-handed anti-gun rant “Reload”), but Lateef and Lyrics Born are in top form both musically and lyrically on The Second Album. Inevitably, it doesn’t stack up with their singular first album (which does have nostalgia on its side), but Latyrx sounds motivated and creatively rejuvenated. So what if it took a decade for the muse to kick in?
Essential Tracks: “Exclamation Point”, “Watershed Moment”