Sunday, September 20, 2009

REVIEW: Braille & Symbolyc One, Cloud Nineteen

Let it be known Braille got skills on the m-i-c. So I was glad to listen to his new joint and review for Okayplayer and whoop, there it is...

Braille & Symbolyc One

Cloud Nineteen
(Hiphop Is Music : 2009)

Braille is traveling unchartered territory. As far as Gospel rappers are concerned, who’s really paving the way? The closest person that comes to mind is Christopher Martin also known as “Play” from Kid ‘N Play and he only further proves the aforementioned concern. So, considering the odds of Christian rap replacing Southern rap as Hip-Hop’s go-to subgenre, there is a warm authenticity, Cloud Nineteen, Braille’s collaboration album with Symbolyc One, the producing third of Strange Fruit Project. It’s the classic underground story of a true-to-craft MC who bumps paths with a like-minded producer and creates a notable offering to the genre he has so diligently studied.

Cloud Nineteen begs to be spared from labels. Most of time, a rapper says, “God” only to watch the “Christian rapper” banners sway with more vigor, but Cloud Nineteen’s diverse lyrical content is not so easily encapsulated. Whereas most religious music leans on excessive praise and boils in its own self-righteous juices, Braille prefers to let his underground roots do the talking. Thus a song like “Broken Heart,” a tribute to his deceased father is rendered with an MC’s eloquence rather than a preacher’s logic. Similarly, listeners may find themselves listening more for Braille’s flow than his religious indictments. After all, it’s definitely flow that makes a track like “Skepticold” bump with oratorical rhythm. S-1’s stripped down but funky accompaniment does not impede as Braille spits: “The environment is violent/Leviathan is like a silent assassin/When the iron spits/And I admit,” effortlessly weaving together assonance and complex rhyming.

As the soundman, S-1 plays an unsung part in weaving together the album’s divergent threads. Whether it’s religion, lyrical virtuosity, or just plain old braggadocio, S-1’s mellow melodies keeps the patchwork quilted. On “Found Her,” S-1’s sentimental production boosts Braille’s love ruminations. As he rattles on in ambiguity about “her”—it could be “her,” his current wife or a Hip-Hop “H.E.R.” discovered by Common fifteen years—S-1 plops the fitting chorus of a filtered female voice to add emphasis.

It’s tough to say whether good production should dominate or facilitate, and though S-1 lands on the latter half of that debate, the jury is still out on whether he deserves a slap on the wrist or a pat on the shoulder. As for Braille, his secular flows and religious leanings share one thing in common: they’re both preaching. He admits it himself in “From The Pulpit,” “The rapper is a preacher man/ Every rapper got something that they’re preaching through the speakers, man/ They’re like public speakers with the chance to reach the younger generation better than the teachers can.” This type of preaching ain’t so bad.

-Sidik Fofana

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