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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Braille & Symbolyc One
Label: Hip-Hop IS Music
Length: 16 Tracks / 55:35
For More Information: http://www.braillehiphop.com | http://www.hiphopismusic.com
Fresh off his fourth LP, 2008's The IV Edition, Braille has teamed up with S1 aka Symbolyc One to deliver this new project entitled Cloud Nineteen. The most immediate benefit of teaming up with a single producer like this is that it results in a cohesion and togetherness of the record's sound that was lacking on The IV as well as 2006's Box of Rhymes.
In the role of beatmaker and production heavyweight, S1 brings his A game. Cloud Nineteen boasts some of the best and most enjoyable beats on any of Braille's releases, at times rivalling 2004's Shades of Grey, widely considered to be Braille's finest album. Actually, it's fair to say that every release since Shades has been held up against it - and in this regard I don't feel that Nineteen takes the title as "best Braille". With that said, Cloud Nineteen maintains the high levels set by Braille's other post-Shades releases - no small feat. In short, the music here is fresh and enjoyable - with songs like "Megaphone Phonics" and "That's My Word" standing out as highlights.
What is there to say about Braille's rhymes that hasn't already been said before? As always, he brings honesty, true-to-life experience, and an increasing breadth of wisdom to every track. For quite some time, Braille's vision for Cloud Nineteen has been to give away freely to folks in schools, correctional facilities, and community centers. This vision seems to have informed the content and the topics of the record, which revolve around the idea that if 'Cloud Nine' is the best this world has to offer, then Christ offers us something much greater... Cloud Nineteen, so to speak. Throughout the album's 14 non-interlude tracks, Braille shares from his life and learnings to encourage and challenge his listeners. A great example of this is "Found Her", which shares his own fledgeling mistakes with women and eventual success in meeting and marrying his wife. It's also a great follow-up to the only track on The IV Edition produced by S1, "Blessed Man". Another highlight for me personally was one of the albums most polarizing tracks, the atmospherically dark and brooding "Heart of God", wherein Braille asks:
"How many times have I failed
to represent the heart of God with my filthy rag righteousness
How can I dumb down the
heart of God?
All I really want is the
heart of God
To me, this track was the album's highest highlight - brutal honesty from Braille about his own weakness and inability to do anything truly valuable apart from what God does through transforming his heart to be more like Christ.
Between S1's consistent and engaging production and Braille's consistent and precise vision for _Cloud Nineteen_, this is one of 2009's best hip-hop records and will retain that status despite being released early in the year. Once again, I find myself impressed by and thankful for Braille and his desire to be a voice for hope and our need for the redemption and heart-level transformation that can only come through Christ. His vision to share this record freely with kids in group homes and cons in prison is to be applauded, and much more than that, it's something to support. Here we have a guy who, rather than trying to cash in on his abilities, feels called to share his life, his talent, and his Saviour with the broken and outcast. That's something worth getting behind. Getting behind it requires that you pick up a copy of this great album to enjoy, and that goes way beyond 'cloud 9' status and on to _Cloud Nineteen_. I'll see you there.
Standout Tracks: It's Nineteen, Broken Heart, That's My Word, Heart of God, Megaphone Phonics, Hardrock.