Always on a musical mission, Braille has become one of rap’s best-kept secrets. He has released three solo albums, performed throughout the U.S., Europe and Japan with artists like the late James Brown, De La Soul and others, been named one of the “Next 100” by URB magazine and collaborated with rap heavyweights such as 9th Wonder and Pigeon John.
Braille was attracted to hip-hop at a young age. Hearing the variety of different styles and artists that existed during the early- to mid-‘90s, Braille was inspired by the idea that he could write songs based on his own personal experiences and that he didn’t have to fit into any specific stereotypes. One group that was fundamental in Braille’s development at the time was A Tribe Called Quest, who changed his outlook on music with its landmark 1993 album Midnight Marauders. Rap was in the midst of a gangster rap renaissance at the time and the album’s uplifting, positive vibe gave the then teen-aged Braille a boost. “Hearing people talk from different perspectives, I started to realize, ‘Hey, I could make music and still be myself,’” the Portland-raised rapper recalls today. “It was fine that I grew up where I grew up. My size, stature and my personality are all attributes. They’re not negatives. That’s just who I am, so I felt that if I embraced those things, then I could do whatever I wanted with it.”
Growing up, Braille had more to worry about than music. Born in Portland, he and his family relocated to New Jersey when he was in high school. During his stay on the east coast, Braille's family went bankrupt and returned to Portland to live with Braille’s grandmother. However, Braille enjoyed being close to Philadelphia and New York and decided to stay by himself on the East Coast. In 1999, when he was 17, independent start-up ESWP music released Braille's first album, Lifefirst: Half The Battle.
The battle to survive proved too tough, so Braille moved back to Portland only to find out there was no room in the house for him. He took a bus to Los Angeles in order to pursue a career in music. After a year in LA, he went back to Oregon and met the woman that would eventually become his wife. With music dreams, no high school diploma and new found responsibility, Braille and his future wife started a business cleaning out repossessed homes.
That wasn’t the work Braille wanted to do, so he and his wife moved out of their place, put their stuff in storage and lived out of their van while they toured around the United States doing concerts. They didn’t ask for payment at shows. With no bills, they sold merchandise to pay for gas and food. “I didn’t have many career options because I spent most of my teenage years working on music,” Braille says. “That’s where I invested all of my time, so I was willing to make some sacrifices in order to continue pursuing it.”
Fortunately, the more Braille pursued his dream of making a living making music, the more real that dream became. He buckled down and in 2004 released his second album, Shades of Grey. The collection featured collaborations with 9th Wonder (Jay-Z, Destiny’s Child) and Rob Swift and laid the foundation for a successful career. Thanks to such powerful, politically minded songs as “Keep On,” it was easy for URB magazine to tap Braille one of their “Next 100.”
The following year, Braille’s newly formed label Hiphop IS Music released his third album, Box of Rhymes. Following the album’s release he would experience the joy of becoming a father as well as the pain of loosing one. The IV Edition deals with these issues and provides an outlook compromising of social change, spiritual beliefs, confidence and the ability to carry on.
Though he did not grow up in a spiritual household, Braille found the spiritual references he encountered in rap encouraging and decided to act upon them. “I believed there was something out there,” Braille says, “and I started out trying to be a positive person. I felt a gut on my heart and I eventually ended up meeting this other artist, Trust One, and when we got together, I thought we were going to talk about hip-hop. He told me more about God and I started on my path as a follower of Christ. That had a big impact on the direction I took in life and as an artist”
Known for his unique brand of passionate lyricism, Braille has slowly carved a niche for himself. A prolific artist with 6 solo records under his belt, he makes “snapshot” music that captures feelings and thoughts from each season of life he experiences.
Letting the music come from the overflow of his heart – most of Braille's songs are very transparent and personal. In the process of making songs with depth, he’s also had opportunities that developted him as an entertainer.
His very name alludes to the revealing of the unseen – expressing the emotional, spiritual and personal. Aiming to let the unseen be felt and experienced through his lyrics and vocal presentations.
Braille will likely have a similar impact on you.
Listen to Braille Here
|Lifefirst: Half The Battle||1999||ESWP Music|
|Shades of Grey||2004||Hip Hop IS Music|
|Thin Cities||2005||Common Cloud Records|
|Scatter Brain||2005||Hip Hop IS Music|
|Box Of Rhymes||2006||Hip Hop IS Music|
|Extra Box for Japan||2007||Hip Hop IS Music|
|The IV Edition||2008||Syntax Records|
|Cloud Nineteen||2009||Hip Hop IS Music|
|Weapon Aid||2010||Talking Textures|
|Native Lungs||2011||Humble Beast|