Shades Of Grey
label: Hiphop Is Music
production: tony stone, 9th wonder, kno, munehine, jon doe, others.
guests: supastition, ohmega watts, othello, tarik & kimani (the masterminds), manchild of mars ill, others.
year of release: 2004
1. Right This Moment
2. It Won't Last feat Othello & Pigeon John
3. Hiphop Music feat. Rob Swift
4. 10 Years
5. Statements (Part Two)
6. Microphone Rush feat. Manchild
7. The Find
8. Keep On
9. Let Go feat. Supastition, The Masterminds
10. Poetry In Motion (Part Two)
11. Life Cipher
12. Goliath
13. Soul Rock feat. Ohmega Watts, Othello, Sharlok Poems
14. Nobody
15. Shades Of Grey
Don't call it a comeback. But Boom Bap Rap is back. With a vengeance. Heck, it will be only a matter of one particular über-hype and Boom Bap Rap will be the next Crunk. Jiggy is passe, Crunk will eventually phase too, all hail to Boom Bap.
And one of the leading figures might appear in the unlikely candidate of Braille. Unlikely because he's unfitting many a rap image: he's not from NY, LA, ATL or any other rap hot spot; nope he resides somewhere up there in the North West. He's a little pale around the nose and started his career amongst the Christian Rap circles. That however - in today's scary times of dangerous extremism, fanatism and fundamentalism - can actually be a plus. Maybe the Christian Coalition needs a poster boy.
Then again it remains unclear if not very unlikely that Braille would want to fit such shoes. After all he has worked with foulmouths like Celph Titled in the past and this album has him not only team up with like-minded artists like Pigeon John, Manchild of Mars ILL, Sharlock Poems of LA Symphony and his partners in LightHeaded Ohmega Watts and Othello. But also 'neutral' artists like Supastition, Tarik and Kimani of The Masterminds. And while we're at it, let's mention everybody on here. So there's the producers 9th Wonder of Little Brother, Kno Of Cunninlynguists, Jon Doe of Prophetix and previously mentioned Celph Titled, amongst more producers: Illmind, Muneshine (the remaining fourth of LightHeaded) Tony Stone, Deepsix and Weapon X. And behind the decks people like Craig Rip, DNA, DJ Spark and Rob Swift.
And looking at this list of achieved artists, you gotta wonder how Braille gets 'em to work with him. Not that Braille is not undeserving to work with them. Listening to the album, he certainly is. But none the less, how does a Braille, someone not quite Jay-Z type famous, get a 9th Wonder to do a beat? Or a Rob Swift to do some cuts? Maybe it really is because this record is good and talented people enjoy being associated with good music.
Lyrically "Right This Moment" (and it's unofficial twin "Nobody") demands your attention right from the start, as Braille is portraying a positive demagogue with positive demagogy. There's something appealing in him telling us that it's time to think in black and white, as there's too many 'shades of grey.' However only before we realize that life is only just as often black and white, as it's a shade of grey. Tony Stone produced the first 'banger' with "Hiphop Music" and the Rob Swift scratches take this even a notch further. The lyrics are of course done before, but as there's plenty wrong with 'hiphop' (or the business side, the fans, and…), it cannot be addressed often enough. This is followed by "10 Years", the 9th Wonder produced ditty. And the rather typical and simplistic drums bounce well with the almost bluesy organ. Toni Hill sings a hook and with so many wack women sounding like sirens, her crooning in comparison sounds good.
Things stay good when Jon Doe sounds like Dust on "Microphone Rush", what might exactly be the reason why Manchild of Mars ILL picked this song to rhyme to. So two of the most talented rappers in this little 'Holy Hop (sorry, couldn't resist) scene' trading verses over a demanding beat and you know the track will be mint. "The Find" sounds like something that could have come out circa 1993, while we just ride with "Let Go", a smooth Celph Titled produced song with the lyrical talents of Supastition, The Masterminds and Braille. Great stuff, and not some braggadocio either, but some real pondering on some real issues. What actually is a statement for the whole album. Braille actually says a little bit about ever song in the liner notes and he does that job better than any journalist.
As for the not so impressive, there's an unsatisfying beat on "Poetry In Motion (Part Two)", unimpressive beats on "Life Cipher" and "Statements (Part Two)", where Ohmega Watts and Braille remember the times of Return To Sender (their group) trading rhymes on this one. And lastly there's the actually pretty bad beat on "Goliath." "Shades Of Grey" threatens to be horrible with the first few keyboard sounds, but the guitar really takes this to the top again. This is another one of Braille's songs where he speaks about himself, helping others to learn by his doing. And while you don't have to agree with every concept and pondering on this record, the intentions are always right and the messages are at least worthy of consideration.
What's actually a fitting conclusion to this album, that many already consider a sleeper hit and that will certainly solidify Braille as one artist to keep a close watch on. You don't wanna miss the moment when he blows up to celebrate success in the Blue and Red States.
review: tadah
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