From the beginning, hip-hop has seen its fair share of timeless emcee/producer duos. Gang Starr, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Eric B & Rakim, DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince, Blu & Exile, the list goes on… Braille & S1 have both been rocking it for some time, but with their first release together in CloudNineteen, they join that elite list of tag team greats. If this is your first time hearing of Braille & S1, or you have been bumping them for a minute; I know for a fact that after checking out their newest release you will be permanently hooked. With that said, join me as I sit down with Braille and Symbolyc One to discuss the new album, touring and the music making process.
Reyn: Hey guys, thank you very much for coming out. Before we get started I just wanted to congratulate you two for cooking up a 2009 classic with CloudNinteen.
Reyn: An excellent emcee and producer collaboration, how did you two decide to hop in the studio together and record a full project?
Braille: It was really sporadic. We were staying in touch via email and both reached a moment where we had some time and creative juice available. It just made sense to start knocking out tracks together, especially after the positive response to our first collaboration “Blessed Man”.
Reyn: Describe the chemistry between you two. Who brings what to the table and how do you compliment each others sound?
Braille: It’s a lot more simple then it probably seems. We are both easy going guys. S1 would send me over a track via email and say “how about this?” More often then not I would have an idea ready or some instant inspiration would hit. But pretty much every song on the new album started with the beat and then I would develop the concept around the beat – in some cases the song would keep the same title as what the beat was originally called.
Reyn: How did the recording process work? Where you in the studio together? Over the internet?
Braille: We are both blessed to have home studios set up. So S1 would cook up the tracks in Dallas and then I would lay down my vocals in Portland. At the very end of the record I flew out to Dallas and laid down a few final touches at S1’s spot. But yeah, it was mainly two guys utilizing their gifts and resources – putting it all together.
Reyn: Did either of you help with the other ones work? Maybe Braille added a few elements to the beat or S1 helped with the lyrics?
Braille: We definitely had a few moments like that. Like I said, some of my concepts were inspired by the beat titles. Songs like “Broken Hearts”, “Found Her” and “From The Pulpit”. On the flipside… some tracks would get elements added based on the lyrics. Like the strings in “Work That Way” or the piano part in “Heart of God”. Those were conceptual ideas that I brought to the table and S1 was able to execute them musically.
Reyn: I am going to ask a few questions directed towards each of you now; let’s get it started with Braille. I have noticed a steady progression and maturation in your lyrics from release to release. You can always expect real life, down to earth rhymes on any Braille record, but with some very serious topics on CloudNinteen, would you call this your most mature release to date?
Braille: I would hope I’m getting more mature as a person and artist over time. That’s the goal. I don’t believe in stagnation – we are constantly either going up or down. A lot of things that I used to talk about in theory have now been lived out in practice. I don’t have to imagine traveling around the world, being a father, loosing loved ones, being well off, being broke, feeling lonely – I don’t need to fabricate any of that. They are all true life experiences. So now I’m trying to mix true emotions and true experiences with a dash of imagination or creativity to bring the picture to life. I definitely think this is my most mature release so far.
Reyn: I noticed that you have had a lot of struggle in your life, whether it be personal or family related. You speak a lot about it on your records, almost never holding back. Did you ever find it troublesome to talk about such personal stuff on your work and have it heard by the public?
Braille: It’s really not difficult for me. I’ve always tried to be transparent as an artist. I’m not the type of guy who cries very often. Maybe two or three times in the last 7 years but the most recent time I cried it was on stage. Before I had an audience I put ALL of myself into the music. Fully committed with no holding back – sometimes I try to water myself down but I just don’t feel it. I rap with conviction and if I’m saying something that I don’t believe then I will fumble the lyrics. I’ve been through some heavy stuff over the last couple years but so has the majority of the people listening. People have come up to me after shows and shared their tears with me because they connect and relate to many of the emotions expressed in the music. My goal is to dig into those places but try to bring hope, healing and restoration to the situation.
Reyn: What else is on Braille‘s plate for 2009? Any more solo work or collaborations?
Braille: Right now I’m working on the new Lightheaded album with Ohmega Watts and Othello. It’s called “Lo-Fi Heights”. I’m also working on my next solo record titled “Audibly Enhanced Dreams”. It’s going to be a “spazz out” record where I try out a lot of things and aim to make some really BIG records for THIS generation. I’ve dabbled in golden era styles and put my own twist on it but I’m getting hungry to discover a new sound for myself. Keep the roots but just create a deeper connection between the words adn the music.
Reyn: Alright now Symbolyc’s turn. What is different from the production you do for Braille and your work for other artists?
S1: I always try to build the production of a project based around the sound or theme that we’re tryin to communicate. In this case of Cloud Nineteen, I wanted to keep that raw hip hop based foundation but then I wanted to add a lot of dynamics musically. So with every track I sent over to him I made sure on my end that every track met the requirements of the sound that we was aiming for.
Reyn: What do you prefer more about working on an entire album with just one emcee as compared to just having a few cuts on an album? Compared to your work with a group like Strange Fruit Project?
S1: I really like working on full albums/projects because that’s when I can attempt to visually paint a picture sonically based on the project’s theme. Almost like making an theatrical audio movie. But I also like creating songs for different artist as well. It’s all a challenge that I accept.
Reyn: What can we expect from you in the future? Any solo work, collaborations, new Strange Fruit?
S1: Yea I stay working Praise God..lol I’m trying to release 4-5 Independent projects/albums of my own(that I Executive Produce) for this 09′ year. Along with that I working with a many Independent and Major label artist ranging from Chamillionaire to Phonte to Tweet and so on… When I’m not on the road, I practically live in the studio.
Reyn: So Braille & S1 are hitting the road, what can we expect at a live show?
Braille: Every show is different. We’ve been on tour for two weeks and it’s been crazy. Some nights are filled with comedy. Every night is filled with energy. We try to make the show feel intimate no matter how big the crowd is. We’ve been offering free copies of the new album to everyone in attendance at our shows. It’s been pretty amazing. The goal is to give out 30,000 copies before the end of the year.S1: Expect alot of Energy and Passion. Braille and S1 both love what we do and we like to display that on stage.
Reyn: Can we expect Braille & S1 to collaborate again in the future? A follow-up?
Braille: We definitely enjoy working together but the future is always unpredictable. We both have things on our plates that need to be taken care of before we even start planning for 2010. But if the timing is right, I would say, God willing – you will hear more from us in the future.
S1: Definitely in due time!
Reyn: Name some other artists we should be on the lookout for other than yourselves in 2009.
Braille: I gotta give it up for my crew – Ohmega Watts, Othello, Theory Hazit, Surreal, Poems, Big Rec, Sojourn, Sivion and so forth.
S1: Strange Fruit Project, Verbal Seed, Knessecary, and my whole Aeonz crew.