As U Were

Japanese-American hip-hop lifer Lyrics Born may never top Later That Day . . ., his career-defining 2003 album, but he still puts in an honest year's work. Now he's setting his rich-baritoned soul-rap verbosity over Eighties electro funk that recalls Cameo, Rockwell and "Party Train" Gap Band. He comments on fame's "bourgie" temptations in "I've Lost Myself" and prescription addiction in "Pillz" — music-biz sleaze in two skits. Money's on his mind too: nonexistent benefits and pension, a lady who bounced when the economy went south. But in "Something Better," he swears pessimism and cynicism aren't the answer. Corny, sure, but inspiring.

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