May 26, 2008

Braille

by
Braille
Illustration by Pearl Rachinsky

Introduce yourself, crew affiliations etc…

My name is Bryan “Braille” Winchester. I’m from Portland, OR, I’m a solo artist and also from a crew called Lightheaded with Ohmega Watts and Othello.

What is the abridged story of your rap career?

I started writing raps around age 13. I was just copying stuff I heard on the radio. Then I got introduced to A Tribe Called Quest – got hooked and started searching for a specific style of hip hop. I realized that I could just rap about my normal life and who I really was. I started believing in Christ around age 15 – a lot of doors started opening. I was just doing music for the love and as a hobby. I never imagined it going this far. I recorded my first album in Philly (although I was born in Portland). That record was called Lifefirst: Half the Battle and it came out when I was 17. After high school I started doing more shows and eventually started touring with my group Lightheaded. In 2004 I dropped my second solo record Shades of Grey and more doors started opening. I started touring overseas and got the opportunity to open for James Brown. I did 20 shows with him before he passed away and started my own record label during that season of my life. The label is called “Hiphop IS Music.” So between running the label and making solo records – I stay pretty busy with this music stuff. The IV Edition just dropped and it’s my fourth official solo record. New doors are continuing to open and I love the music just as much (maybe even more) then I did when I first started.

How did you come up with your name?

Around age 15 and 16 I had some pretty abstract names. I was inspired by the “dictionary era” of indie hip hop in the late 1990’s. After going through a handful of names, “Braille” finally stuck and has continued to take on new meanings for me. Braille by definition is “text for the blind,” [so] when I write, I mainly talk about personal, emotional and spiritual things. Communicating the unseen through my lyrics.

Your new album has a myriad of potential meanings; I was most intrigued by the ‘Intravenous’ analogy, could you elaborate more on that?

Yeah, it’s not really about saying that the “music” is the medicine. It’s more relating to social illnesses such as hunger, poverty and addictions. Water for the thirsty, food for the hungry and mercy for the sinner. It’s about the people stepping up and helping out those in need. Starting first with our communities and then looking outward towards the rest of the world. I keep the concept pretty broad, ‘cause in reality it can relate to different people in different ways. I’ve got friends who donate a lot of time and money towards helping get clean water in Africa. Then on the flipside, I’ve got friends who do after school programs and spend time with troubled youth.

You’re on tour right now for your new album, is it going well? Do you like being on tour?

The road is going great. Every show so far has been successful and it’s been fun promoting the new record. Me, my wife and my daughter (a year and a half) are all on the road together. We’ve been having a good time together as a family – enjoying the road and traveling around the U.S. I’ve never had a chance to tour Canada yet but I see it coming in the near future. This year I’m hitting America, Europe and Australia.

When your daughter gets older, are you going to encourage her not to listen to rap music?

My daughter is on tour with me right now. She is going to be exposed to all kinds of music at an early age. My goal is to raise her to have respect for herself – and then when she does hear some of that mainstream rap, it won’t appeal to her. I think hiding the music from our kids just makes them more curious. My wife and I plan to face all the potential problems head on. We gotta educate our youth about the things that the world offers, so that they can make their own choices and have a solid foundation to lean on.

What does your wife think about your rap career?

I was a rapper when we met and it wasn’t a “career” back then. Haha. We’ve been married for 6 years now and she has been on nearly every tour with me. We work this together as a team – she doesn’t work a job, so my music is the only income for the household. Our marriage has really helped me to grow as an artist, and also having someone like her encouraging me and believing in me has helped me to push further then I probably would have on my own.

Do you think that rappers have a social responsibility on the microphone?

Rappers can do whatever they want. Music is just a reflection of life. I’m the type to try and make changes in my life before I even worry about the music. If hate, sexism and xenophobia is coming out in the music – that’s just a reflection of our society. The hearts need to change before the music can.

Do you think with Obama’s recent wins in the Democratic primaries are significant?

Yeah – winning the primaries is significant for sure. I’m just kind of waiting to see how everything unfolds. Until someone officially becomes the next president, I guess it’s still in the air a little bit.

Do you support Obama?

From what I’ve read and saw he seems like a good guy. I don’t endorse any political parties or political affiliations within my music – I wouldn’t want to attempt to influence anyone to vote based on my recommendation. I would suggest that everyone studies a bit and votes based on who they truly think is best for the country – not necessarily just based on hype or celebrity endorsements.

Will Obama change anything dramatically in the White House?

I don’t really want to attempt to predict anything. I think any new candidate is going to bring about a variety of dramatic changes from our current situation. You never know exactly what’s going to happen though until it all starts happening. None-the-less I’m hopeful – and ultimately I like to see the people and the communities stepping up to bat and making positive change with or without help from the government.

Shouts? Last words?

Thanks for taking time to interview me and support the new record. Folks can keep in touch via braillehiphop.com or myspace.com/braillebrizzy – and also check out my label at hiphopismusic.com. Much love!!!

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4 Comments

  1. ceej

    Haven’t picked up the new album yet, but Braille is dope! Got into his stuff back in the old HHI days. What’s up with barrage of pointless political questions though? Who gives a shit what rappers think about politics, this is hip hop not Meet the Press. You think you’d quiz a christian rapper about some god fearing shit instead.

  2. Grilling a Christian rapper about his faith is pointless, plus I’m not that interested in it. I think Obama’s success in the primaries when I interviewed him was more relevant.

  3. I think the interview was great. I always enjoy getting different types of questions. As I mentioned in the interview, I’m not really the type to promote or affiliate myself with any political parties – but it is something taking place in our world right now.

  4. I love braille! I think it’s funny though how instead of focusing on the positive and uplifting parts of this interview, people are so quick to start judging the interviewer on the questions they chose to ask. “time and time again i’ve been told that a focus on the flaw’s of men’s off center ten-fold” -ra scion

    but look at me, i’m doing the exact same thing by bringing this point up haha.

    i love the part where braille says “My goal is to raise her to have respect for herself – and then when she does hear some of that mainstream rap, it won’t appeal to her”

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