Hip-Hop Core: Can you tell us about your beginnings in hip-hop ? What was you first contact with the hip-hop culture for instance ?

Braille : My hip-hop story isn't to fancy. I didn't hear some old school song as a child and then fall in love. I didn't really know anyone who listened to hip-hop growing up. I would listen to "nirvana", "everclear", "primus" and all kinds of stuff. Mixed in with that I had some hip-hop tapes that I just happened to like. Through time, I started to like those tapes more then all my others. The first album that I kept in heavy rotation was "midnight marauders". I think after reading the shout outs to their album I started picking up more stuff. That's how I built my collection and interest. Someone would feature on a tape, so I'd buy their tape, then someone would be featured on their tape and I'd buy it. Before I knew it, I had over 500 tapes. I'd just save up my lunch money, instead of eating lunch I'd buy tapes every week. By age 13, I started to try writing and stuff. I'd just mess around in my bedroom on a karaoke machine.

HHC : Who or what gave you the will to become an emcee ?

B : I dunno really. It still doesn't make much sense to me. I just started doing it all by myself in my bedroom. I didn't have a crew, or know any older artists or anything. I was really into the Native Tongues. Q-Tip was my favourite and I was also a big fan of Leaders of the New School, Das Efx, KRS, De La, Jungle Brothers and so forth. I pretty much tried to mimic what I heard, except I did it off beat. Haha. I was the kid in the front row at the show, taking the bus home after. It was even through hip-hop music that I was first introduced to God, so in every way possible music has played a huge role in my life. I know how powerful music is. I have no idea who I would have become if it didn't effect me in such a positive way. I know it has the same power to effect people in a negative way, so I guess I'm here to try and balance it out.

HHC : Now, some years down the line, how do you feel about your solo LP "Lifefirst : Half the Battle" ? Will you work again with Celph Titled, Sixtoo or Kno who were doing production on your first Lp back in 1999 ?

B : Lifefirst is a real trip for me. My family had just moved to New Jersey from Portland, OR. It was in the summer, so I hadn't been to school yet to meet any friends. Besides that, we were living in a hotel. I wanted to make music cause I was just getting started back at home. I found a studio in Philly, which was actually a basement with an 8-track. After recording my first two songs there, they invited me to continue recording the rest of the album for free. Once it was done they pressed it and released it for me. It was a real blessing. I'm really humbled by how the album ended up being received. I was only 16 when I made most of it, and I had no idea what I was doing. I think that's what my advantage was. Haha. It was such a privilege to get to work with all the talented people involved with that album. I haven't talked with Celph for like two years. Last time we talked, he hit me with four beats, which will probably be the last tracks I'll have the opportunity to rock over by him. Kno hit me with a beat last year as well, and I'm not sure what the future holds with us collabing. Everyone is just growing up, getting busy and building their careers. I definitely got love for all of them because they helped me get started. I'm forever in debt. Sixtoo is also really cool. I had the chance to meet up with him once a couple years after the album dropped. Haven't had the chance to collab more though.

HHC : How is the rap scene in Portland ?

B : I love Portland. I mean, I've been all over but this is my home. As for the music here, I'm not as involved as I'd like to be. I'm always very busy and not always able to attend many shows. We have real diverse culture though. Portland is one of those cities that definitely has it's own sound. The sound lately has been a bit dark, but it's definitely been a cool movement. My favourite local act right now is Lifesavas.

HHC : Now let's move on to LightHeaded, how did you hook up with the rest of the group ?

B : Well, it's kind of a simple yet complex story. Ohmega has been my man for like the last 4 years. He's my best friend. We've been a group "Return to Sender" for a long time, but the timing just hasn't been right for that, so every time we do projects, we include each other. I met Muneshine on-line after hearing some of his beats and feeling them like crazy. I met Othello at a show I did with Ohmega and we've all been boys ever since.

HHC : What inspired you to create a new group, besides Acts29 ? By the way, can you tell us the whole story of the creation of LightHeaded ?

B : There is a lot of the confusion with all the groups cause I've been in so many different ones. Most of my life, I've mainly been a solo artist. I just love collabing with people though. The story behind Acts 29 is this. I was going to church, and Acts 29 was actually the name of the youth group. The youth group would create CDs with their youth rapping and give them out for free in the city. Once I started going to the church, I decided to become a part of the project with one of the main cats behind it. Ohmega became a big part of the project as well. It was originally going to end up including many people from the church, but in the end, it just had Ohmega, Soul Plasma and myself. We all became really close friends and I enjoyed making the project, so I pushed it in place of my solo album (cause I didn't have it ready). So Syntax dropped it. I still got mad love for Soul and for the church, but I had to narrow down my group situations. The story behind LightHeaded is that I was originally working on an EP with Muneshine. He was going to lace all the beats and I was going to lace all the rhymes. The beats were sounding fresh though, I felt like the beats needed more voices on them then just my own. I asked Ohmega to get down, and like always, he was down. Then we eventually asked Othello to get down as well and that completed it. I came up with the group name soon after and the rest is history.

HHC : What did you exactly want to accomplish with "Pure Thoughts" ? How do you feel about the final result ? For my part, I really appreciated it as you already know. I feel that you've managed to create a perfect balance between pure entertainment and thought-provoking lyrics while always being very open-minded, never preachy and keeping a positive outlook on life even in those tough times.

B : The goal with "Pure Thoughts" was simple. I was at a point where music was getting stressful. The whole process of putting stuff together, getting it out, promoting it and all that. I just wanted to make something refreshing. That was the simple goal. To make a hip-hop album that was like a glass of water. I think that focus and vision came through well and I'm looking forward to creating more material with Lightheaded. When you hear "Pure Thoughts" you are hearing the only songs we've ever done together so far. I love building with these guys, we are all family for sure.

HHC : Muneshine has done a really great production work on this Lp. It's not often that you find a producer able to keep you interested for the whole length of an album nowadays. Can you tell us a few words about the way he works ?

B : Man, Muneshine just sends me real good beats and says "check this out" and I say "dope" and we take it from there. I know he has an MPC and I know he's a hard working cat. He's always cooking up something new and is always progressing in his art.

HHC : How did you manage to record "Pure Thoughts" considering that Museshine lives in Canada while the rest of the group is in Portland ?

B : We just got him a plain ticket. He was in Portland for like a week and laid down all the beats. We recorded most of the vocals while he was in town, and then did the final touches plus mixing while he was back home. It was a great time for us all to chill together and really just be friends, beyond even making music. We are hoping to have him visit again this summer.

HHC : How did you get in contact with Day By Day for this release ?

B : I've always been cool with DJ Fisher over at Day By Day. Almost anyone I work with is someone I really click with. Fisher has always shown me support since day one. He's a cat I can trust, and he's put a lot of effort into pushing us. I'm really thankful for the relationship I have with him.

HHC : You told me that you were going to continue the adventure with LightHeaded… Can you elaborate a little on the reasons why ? I'm very happy to hear that.

B : It's just natural. Like, all of us working together is real natural. Nothing is forced. It just happens, it feels good and it feels right. We vibe off each other in a real automatic way. Plus, we are all real close friends, and that's what will really hold us together I believe.

HHC : How do you feel about this whole "Christian Rap" label ?

B : It's funny, but I don't really stress it. I mean, in the end we are all just people. I got love for all humans, hehe. But seriously, that's what I represent, so if it makes people comfortable to call me that, then they can. I think the music speaks for it's self though and I think it's simply put, valid hip-hop music. What you take from it is your choice as a listener.

HHC : What's your feeling on the war going on right now in Iraq ?

B : I mean, I'm not a fan of violence. I'm just not a violent person. Yet at the same time, I understand that in the history of our world, war has taken place. I'm not mad at anyone and I'm not fearful. I wish there was a way to prevent things like this from going down, but really, we are in crazy times in our world. Every nation has many enemies, every nation is doing their own thing. It's like, no matter what you do, someone isn't going to like it. Right now, I've realised that I can't stop this war, and even when I try and research I'm faced with the fact that I don't have the info needed to make the right decision. I wasn't put in the position to make this decision, and I don't know everything the decisions are based on so I can't act like I know it all. I just pray that it ends quick, that problems get resolved, and that ultimately good things come because of it, rather than just the obvious negatives. I've seen many people in support of it (even people in Iraq) and many people against it (even in the U.S.), so it goes all ways.

HHC : As a believer, how do you feel when you hear Georges W. Bush using the name of God every time he wants to justify his war, whereas the message of God is one of peace and love ?

B : Again, it's hard for me to judge the president. I'm not in his shoes. I don't have to make the decisions he does. I don't have to live with it. That's his job. I'm not blind, I know he's not perfect. No man is perfect. I think he's doing his best with what he knows. The message of God is definitely peace and love, but honestly, the bible speaks of war very clearly. War took place all through the bible, and even to the last chapter it says that wars will continue to happen. It's something in life that can't be prevented. I try to focus on the things I control. I control how I respond to the situations around me and regardless of what's going down, I can choose to make a difference day by day, just by doing what I know I'm supposed to do. Trying to help people out, spread love and be a good influence in my community and through music.

HHC : On a lighter note, what are you listening to these days ?

B : I don't have a lot of money to be buying a lot of CDs and stuff. My CD collection is mostly filled with CD-R's of beats. Hehe. I'm usually either listening to some beats, or something that makes me happy. The main time I get to listen to music is when I'm in the car. So if I'm on the way to work, or on my way to church, or on my way to the studio, I want to be feeling good. So I listen to a lot of feel good music lately.

HHC : Can you tell us what your plans are for the next year or two ? What about the solo projects in the group for instance ?

B : I've been doings tons of features. I can't even really keep track. Aside from that, I'm working on my next solo record titled "Long Road". I've been working on this album for about three and a half years and things are finally starting to shape to my satisfaction. My main goal is to drop the solo album late this year and then drop the next LightHeaded album by no later then summer of next year. Othello, Ohmega and Muneshine are all working on solo projects as well.

HHC : Thank you very much for this interview, Braille. Is there anything you'd like to add for the readers of Hip-Hop Core ? Any message ?

B : For people interested in checking out the LightHeaded album it's available at for customers in France. It's also available at many fine spots on-line and slowely leaking into to mom and pop stores. We appreciate the support. Look for our website to be fully running soon. Thanks to Hip-Hop Core for the love and time. Peace and GOD bless to all.

Interview by Cobalt
Photos by Clay Enos
April 2003

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