A talk with Poland born Braille about his thoughts on the UK scene, why he likes touring, what took so long for him to release his latest album and how he linked up with his guest spots.
For those who are not aware of Lightheaded/Braille, Can you fill us in with a little history behind the two?
I was born in Portland, OR. I've been rhyming for a good 10 years now. My first official solo album that got pressed to CD was "Lifefirst: Half the Battle" in 1999. I've also lived in New Jersey and L.A. I've been in tons of different groups but the one that has remained serious is Lightheaded. Lightheaded consists of myself, Ohmega Watts (ubiquity artist), Othello and Muneshine. Our debut album "Pure Thoughts" dropped on Day by Day in 2003. Both myself and the crew have been very active between releases and touring over the last couple years.
Where did the name originate from?
After going through 8 or 9 different names, Braille was the first one to really define me. People usually get the impression that it means people "feel" the music, but I admit that would be a stupid idea. hehe. The actual meaning is to help people understand things they can't see. Expressing emotions and things of the internal nature through my text. A lot of the focus in my writing revolves around how things affect me, society and culture internally. It's easy to make it look like everything is cool on the outside, but I guess I'm more concerned with the condition of the heart and soul.
How have you changed/Matured since your debut long player "Life first: Half the battle"?
All the material on that album was written and recorded between ages 16 and 17. I'm 22 now, so I feel I've naturally progressed in all areas of life. I don't mean, as an artist, but as a person. I've ran my own business, I'm married, I've toured…. there are so many experiences I have under my belt that were foreign to me back then. I think my passion for living life and living for God has greatly increased since that time. At that time, I was slowly transitioning into a man. I feel as if I am a man now, although I still have a lot to learn.
Your recent "Shades of Grey" album features lots of great artists on there, how did they come about?
Most of the featured artists and producers on "Shades of Grey" are people that I've known for a long time. Producers such as Celph Titled, Ohmega Watts and Kno…. I've known all those guys for over 5 years now. I spent 3 years working on the album, so the artists involved are just a collection of people I've met or contacted through the years. It was an honour to have so much support and help with this record. I know I couldn't have made the album what it is on my own, so I'm grateful for all those who lent their talents.
How come it took so long to come about?
There's many reasons for the delay. After getting out of high school I spent two years living as a nomad. Pretty much homeless, going from place to place. So I started a lot of things, but nothing ever got finished. Then, after getting married, I dedicated a lot of my time to making sure my marriage was solid. Family is very important to me. All in all, I was growing as a person and an artist and it wasn't something I could rush. I also had high standards for myself.
You have done a lot of shows recently with Lightheaded, What's your favourite part of touring?
When Lightheaded tours it's me, ohmega, othello and my wife all packed in a full size van. I love it. Those are my 3 favourite people in the world. I could make no money at all and still be happy. It's also incredible meeting new people and visiting new areas. I think I was built for the road. I don't care where I sleep or what I eat. I just enjoy being on the road, doing shows and sharing my heart with people. I feel that I'm most effective with my life while on the road.
Why did you decide to start your own label "Hip Hop is Music"?
I grew up watching most of the labels we see now, build from the ground up. I'm not going to rap forever, but my education and experience in the culture can remain valuable beyond just my career as an artist. There are a lot of mc's and producers that I want to see get their shine. If I can help them, and help myself at the same time then it's a win/win situation. I'm excited to see where things go. The label, "Hip-hop Is Music" is targeted to service hip-hop fans, as well as expose a new brand of hip-hop to the non-hip-hop listener. I've found that most people who think they don't like hip-hop, haven't heard the style in which I specialize. I kind of want to re-introduce your average listener to hip-hop in a new context. Our youth is growing up on a different kind of hip-hop than the kind I grew up on. I'm all about progression, but I'm also into preservation.
How healthy is the Portland Hip Hop scene?
It's very healthy. Groups like Lifesavas and Oldominion are starting to bubble up. I love Portland. There's a lot of good stuff happening there. It's my home, no matter where I'm at.
What are your views on UK Hip Hop?
Although my exposure has been limited, I know there are tons of incredible producers. I enjoy good music, no matter where it's from. I probably should make more of an effort to keep in tune with the scene, but I have heard a lot of good material from the U.K.
Do you believe UK Hip Hop could be successful in the US?
Definitely. It seems like hip-hop is all about the beats right now. Good production goes along way. If you get the right mc over the right beats… people will dig it. I think cross country colabs have played an important roll in opening up the culture globally.
Who are your favourite artists right now?
Ohmega Watts and Othello for sure. Tony Stone, DJ Manwell, The Procussions, Mars Ill, Lifesavas, Sharlok Poems, Pigeon John, and many more.
Do you have any shoutouts/Promotional messages?
Yes, check out the new album "Shades of Grey" available at Headnod.co.uk and Braillehiphop.com. Also look out for the re-release of Lightheaded's debut record "Pure Thoughts". We also have a 12" single out now featuring a new song called "Illuminate part 1" produced by 9th Wonder and featuring Vursatyl of Lifesavas. My new label will also be releasing Othello and the Hipnotiks (live jass/hip-hop) "Classic" EP on September 21st. I also got a lot more on the way between myself, Lightheaded and the label. Thanks so much for the support. Peace and GOD bless