Album Review: Braille & S1 – CloudNineteen (2009)
Rating: 4 out of 5 Potholes
If it has taken this long for you to hear Braille and/or Symbolyc1 One (S1), of Strange Fruit Project, shame on you. Both the emcee and producer/rapper, respectively, have been grinding for at least a decade’s time now and put out several solid albums that have, to some extent, received their just due – well, at least, they have in critical sense. While it’s true neither artist is one a recreation rap listener could identify, any seasoned hip-hop head has likely heard at least one of their efforts. And now, the two have collaborated to bring us just what you might expect from their pairing. On the stellar Cloud Nineteen, Braille spits fiery, passionate, and uplifting rhymes over a smooth and funky backdrop laid down by S1.At first listen, Cloud Nineteen plays lot like what we have already heard from both acts. Braille preaches on the meditative “It’s Nineteen” and talks shit on the banger “Fill It In”. And then S1 layers fantastic beats that are lush, like the live-band-esque “Broken Heart”, and sometimes just ridiculous, as heard on the piano-thudding “From the Pulpit”. While a lack of any experimentation might seem frustrating, these two succeed dramatically with what they do well. But, to be fair, there are some hints at breaking out of their respective artistic boxes. The slight go-go vibe on “Megaphone Phonics” sets the stage for some of Braille’s most mind-boggling wordplay. And the guest instrumentation from Shawn Lee on the love-centric “Found Her” is both unexpected and enjoyable.If there is one nagging problem with this record, it’s that Braille’s constant Christ references can become tiresome, as can his voice, which hardly varies. And his preacher stance is a little off-putting at first. But when you think about it, why do we push away artists like this yet embrace others, with the same talents, who rap about coke or violence? I’m not trying to preach either, but this is a matter of real recognizing real, so understand that Braille, religion aside, is a skilled emcee who deserves respect.But that’s not to say Cloud Nineteen is flawless. Clearly, this album is not intended for everyone, as some will be easily turned away by religious overtones. And there are also a few so-so tracks, such as the well-produced but lyrically drab “For Life”. For the majority of this LP, though, Braille and S1 have synced up to create some master-of-their-craft bangers and laid-back sizzlers.