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In 2010, Braille released what was his most personal work to date, Weapon Aid. One of my favorite albums in recent history, Weapon Aid was chock full of great beats, excellent lyricism and raw emotion. Now, Braille, along with the Humble Beast collective, brings us a new album: Native Lungs. If Weapon Aid was a portrait of a man going through the struggles of life, then parts of Native Lungs contain the next logical step, a portrait of that same man as he emerges from the clutches of personal tragedy.

I’ve long considered Braille an excellent lyricist, and there is nothing on this album to change my mind. He seamlessly combines intricate word play, complex rhyme schemes and an effortless flow that allows him to tackle a great variety of song topics, and also allows him to be at home over a variety of styles of beats. That’s a good thing on this album, because there is a wide range of production styles used on the album, owing to the wide range of names that handled production on the album. “48 Prisons” features Braille spitting about our captivity to sin over an appropriately claustrophobic beat from Xperiment. Underground hip hop superstar Evidence (of Dilated Peoples fame) provides a very cool piano laden beat that Braille puts to good use on the track “Feel It,” which also features some great scratches by DJ Revolution. DaveNotti provides the swirling organ and heavy duty boom bap for my favorite track on the album, “Death In Me” which features Braille combining forces with Theory Hazit and Odd Thomas. Theory Hazit and Odd Thomas are both represented on the production side as well, as are DJ Official, Calvin Valentine and Trox, who uses a slightly slowed down Ice T sample to great effect on “Nightmare Walking”. I really appreciate Odd Thomas and Xperiment’s combined efforts on the title track, which has a brilliant staccato piano line that sounds somewhat “Dr. Dre-ish”, and provides Braille an appropriate backdrop to drop rhymes on the subject of hip hop itself, and his place in the game. Braille himself provides 2 strong beats in “The Hardway” and “Rhymes on Everything.” “The Hardway” has an east coast underground vibe, and reminded me of 2001/2002, one of my favorite periods of hip hop. Andy Mineo’s feature spot works really well over the track, and I’d love to hear him and Braille do more together in the future, as I think their voices are complimentary. The beat for “Rhymes on Everything” sounds like it could be the score to either a psychological thriller, or a police drama, and provides a perfect backdrop to Braille’s treatise on the disposability of our culture.

One of my other favorites is “Step It Up” which combines a fairly sparse DaveNotti beat, with straight forward rhymes about Braille’s struggles as a single parent. As a father, I can appreciate the multiple spots throughout the album where he references his daughter, and I love the fact that he included her in the recording process, with hers being the first voice you hear.

Sonically, this album is a step up (no pun intended) from Braille’s previous releases. I A/B’d Native Lungs with a couple of his older albums, and it’s pretty evident that there’s an extra element of studio polish on what was already a solid sonic footprint. There is a clarity to the vocals especially, that, while subtle, adds to the overall package of what is already a great album.

When I reviewed Weapon Aid last year, I called it an instant classic, partially due to the depth of emotion, and the heart that Braille put into it. Native Lungs doesn’t necessarily reach those heights, but it is a great album that stands solidly on its own merits. If Weapon Aid was a portrait of where Bryan Winchester was personally at the time of its writing, then Native Lungs is a portrait of where he is currently, both personally and artistically. I highly recommend supporting good music by purchasing this even though Humble Beast will be offering it for free.

Release Date: August 30, 2011

Label: Humble Beast

Download it free on humblebeast.com or purchase on iTunes tomorrow

Tracklisting
1. Native Lungs
Produced by Odd Thomas and Xperiment

2. Feel It
Produced by Evidence Co-Produced by Khrysis
Scratches by DJ Revolution

3. Death In Me (feat. Theory Hazit & Odd Thomas)
Produced by DaveNotti
Additional production by Odd Thomas and Xperiment

4. We Will Remember
Produced by Braille

5. The Hardway (feat. Andy Mineo)
Produced by Braille
Scratches by DJ Spark

6. Rhymes On Everything
Produced by Braille

7. The New Raw
Produced by Ohmega Watts
Scratches by DJ Rob Swift

8. Nightmare Walking
Produced by Trox

9. Too Many Tomorrows
Produced by Calvin Valentine

10. Step Up
Produced by DaveNotti

11. 48 Prisons
Produced by Xperiment
Scratches by DJ Idull

12. DeepRest
Produced by S1

13. Finally Arrive
Produced by Odd Thomas and Xperiment
Additional production by DJ Cassidy

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