Members of the prodigiously talented Solesides/Quannum collective, Latyrx went sorely underrecognized for their restlessly experimental brand of hip-hop. Their lone album was far too eccentric for the masses, but even in underground circles, it fell prey to poor distribution (it went out of print twice) and poor timing (Quannum mates DJ Shadow and Blackalicious hadn't yet secured their status with hip-hop fans). The name Latyrx was a combination of its members' performing monikers, Lateef the Truth Speaker (born Lateef Daumont) and Lyrics Born (born Tom Shimura). The roots of their partnership lay in the formation of the Solesides collective at the University of California-Davis. The crew's charter members -- which also included DJ Shadow and the future Blackalicious team -- were all involved in student radio and shared a progressive-minded approach to hip-hop. Lateef and Lyrics Born initially recorded as solo artists; under the name Asia Born, the latter released the first single on the Solesides label, "Send Them," in early 1993.
The first proper Latyrx release came in 1996, and was actually the B-side of Lateef's solo single "The Wreckoning." For the track in question, also called "Latyrx," both MCs recorded completely different raps that were played back simultaneously. Coupled with DJ Shadow's trippy production, the effect was mind-bending and started to build an underground buzz for the duo. More solo sides followed that year -- Lateef cut "The Quickening (The Wreckoning, Pt. II)" with Shadow on the boards, and Lyrics Born produced his own 12" release, "Balcony Beach" b/w "Burnt Pride." Most of these solo sides, along with a raft of new material, appeared on the duo's debut LP, The Album, which was released in 1997. DJ Shadow produced a total of four tracks, and Chief Xcel (later of Blackalicious) helmed two, while Lyrics Born handled the rest himself. The Album earned rave reviews for its adventurous, electronic-flavored production and the distinctive flows of both rappers. It was followed closely by the Muzapper's Mixes EP, which contained the boundary-pushing single "Lady Don't Tek No." Muzapper's Remixes appeared in 1998, but unfortunately, The Album didn't stay in print much longer; it was reissued briefly in 1999 before disappearing again. Meanwhile, Solesides was reconfigured into a new label, Quannum Projects, and the collective officially changed its name to Quannum as well.
Latyrx didn't record much following their brief reign as an underground sensation. They guested on "8 Point Agenda," a 1999 single by the Herbaliser, and also contributed new material to the Quannum Spectrum compilation that year. Meanwhile, The Album became something of a Holy Grail to the West Coast underground, with used copies selling for exorbitant sums. Quannum Projects finally reissued it in 2002, allowing it to take its place alongside the new crop of experimental hip-hop that included El-P's Def Jux crew, Anti-Pop Consortium, and Anticon. By that time, both Lateef and Lyrics Born were reportedly working on solo projects, the former with Blackalicious' Chief Xcel. ~ Steve Huey