Have you ever started listening to an album with the expectation that it’s going to be good, but within the first couple tracks you believe that the album isn’t good at all? No, instead it’s a classic? Well that’s how I immediately felt with Native Lungs. I was transported to a time where hip hop was in one of its greatest eras. A time when hip hop was grimy, lyrical, had thunderous beats and a universal flavor that appealed to everyone, everywhere. Well, in short, prepare yourself for a classic.
I have to admit that I have not been a fan of most of the music coming out of the west coast of late, whether it be underground or mainstream. Furthermore, I’ve never been a major Braille fan. I’ve always liked what he did and saw incredible talent, but I could never spend hours listening to his music over and over again like I can with my favorites. Well, Braille has just changed that with this recently released album, Native Lungs.
I know I’m setting myself up for a lot of arguments, but I truly think this is Braille’s best album so far. In fact, I thought that two songs in, and I still think it days and many listening hours later. If I were to be asked to pick a single I would be hard pressed because the album is very consistent and very strong even with a modicum of difference from track to track. But that’s what an album is supposed to be. It’s supposed to sound uniform. It’s suppose be more than just a couple singles. It’s supposed to move you in some manner, entice you to listen longer and draw you back to listen again, reminding you what you’ve been missing since you left. Native Lungs does all that, and somehow also figured out a way to keep me from making silly puns. Now that’s talent!
There was a lot of stuff that stuck out at me in the beginning, but one of the most impressing elements was the quality of the turntablism. And what I heard that impressed me so just seemed to garner more validity as I ventured into the cd insert to find iconic DJ, DJ Rob Swift of the X-Men aka X-ecutioners, and storied DJ, DJ Revolution, having added their extraordinary expertise among a litany of other quality DJs. Color me surprised to see those names, but should I have really been that surprised? Regardless, I certainly was pleasantly surprised. It was kind of like the perfect decoration to a wedding cake.
Okay, maybe I do have some partiality regarding DJs, but I think that’s understandable considering my particular craft. Nevertheless, the contribution of every element within each song, from the production to the artists, is important to create a uniform, harmonized collection of songs that make up an album. This certainly gives great importance to the production of the beats which happen to be as outstanding as everything else in Native Lungs, including the tracks produced by Braille himself. In fact, much of the timelessness and universal sound delivered in Native Lungs is due to that that perfect marriage of high quality beats from each coast, high quality delivery, high quality lyrics and high quality turntablism.
I truly felt transported back to the 90s at times, like with the classic east coast flavor of “Feel It” and “Step It Up,” the west coast stomping flavor of “The Hardway” and the grimy flavor of the title track “Native Lungs,” “Rhymes on Everything” and “48 Prisons.” At other times I was transported to the classic modern underground boom bap sound like with “DeepRest” and “The New Raw” among others. And yet it all fit together. But just because I was transported back to the 90’s at times don’t think that Native Lungs sounds dated. No, more like timeless. It’s like when Dodge brought back the Challenger and modernized it with today’s electronics and gadgets, or when Plymouth/Chrysler did a modern throw back of the 40’s hot rods with the Prowler and Morgan with it’s modern twist of a 50’s luxury roadster with its Aero 8. It’s a matter of resurrecting something you may or may not have realized that you miss and creating a type of nostalgia for it that makes you want it all the more. That is Native Lungs in sound and in quality.
Lyrically, Native Lungs is quite dynamic. Some tracks might seem very “hip hop” minus all the overt religious implications, like in “The New Raw.” Others have a clear and distinct Christ/biblical centered message like in “Death In Me” and “Nightmare Walking.” Most seem to take a more subtle tone with a generally strong moral and positive message with being pounded with biblical passages. Regardless of which is your preference it all comes at the same high standard, strong delivery and vibrant lyricism that is expected from Braille at the top of his game. I cannot say that this is a matured Braille, he’s long since been that. This might just be Braille in his real prime, like the athlete that hits his pinnacle in his late 20’s. May we only hope he’s still on the ascent and not at his pinnacle.
When all is said and done, Braille’s Native Lungs is a pleasant and refreshing change from the norm. And that’s something coming from this harsh critic.
1. Music – 9
2. Flow/Delivery – 9
3. Lyricism – 9
4. Content – 7
5. Creativity/Originality/Relevancy – 9
6. Credibility & Confidence – 9
7. Personality & Character – 10
8. Presentation Quality – 9
9. Overall Production Quality – 10
10. Potential Impact – 8