Over the past decade, in addition to his work on projects like Acts 29 and Light Headed, Braille has amassed quite the solo discography, constantly improving and refining his already promising writing and delivery. From his debut, Lifefirst: Half the Battle, to last year's Cloud Nineteen, those who have cared to have been able to witness the evolution of a great emcee. He's not a great "Christian" emcee. He's not a great "backpacker" emcee. He is a great emcee. If you're one of those who have been paying attention, and you know how great Braille is, you're still not ready for this album.
Using an intricate rhyme style, Braille gets across that which is on his heart. And if there is one thing you can definitely say about Weapon Aid...it is apparent that every word, every line comes directly from his heart. As I took my first listen, I noticed that the songs on Weapon Aid are a roller coaster of emotion. I've often felt that structuring an album was a lost art. However, there appears to be a definite narrative built into Weapon Aid based on one man's struggles in life. In a way, it's almost a concept album about the struggles in this life, and a Christian response to them. The exact nature of Braille's struggles are between the man himself, the people closest to him and the Lord. And while there are some specifics that can be inferred or found on the web, I would argue that the message has a strength that is enhanced by its generality/universality.
The album opens with the dense production of "Get Well Soon." Hard hitting drums combine with lo-fi (in a good way) looped guitars and a Hammond B3 organ to create a wall of sound. This gives the track a weight that fits well with Braille's flow, and the lyrical depiction of a society begging for God to be the Great Physician to a generation that needs healing. In my opinion, this is the perfect opening track, as it sets the stage for everything that is to follow. What comes over the next 9 tracks is a collection of beats that form the soundtrack to heartache. Most of the beats, including the afore mentioned "Get Well Soon" are created by BigJess from Unknown Prophets, and he shows some real skill. "Give Myself" is a heart wrenching portrait of a man struggling with love and its effects on the hearts of us and those we try to give it to, set to some great keyboard work, and a haunting vocal sample. "Poison" starts out with some very cool swirling wind type sounds, and ends up with a slow drum track, with some keyboard and other samples that combine to give the track a dark, almost apocalyptic feel. The rest of BigJess' tracks are uniformly excellent, and he uses varied instrumentation to great effect. I love the combination of piano and bass on "Resurrect Me." My absolute favorite track is "Surgical" which features a sample from the finale of the Stephen Schwartz musical Godspell (specifically, a guitar line and Jesus' vocals while he is being crucified).
The rest of the tracks are no less polished. "Complexicated" has a bangin' beat by DJ Cassidy, and features Braille with a more off kilter flow than he usually uses, showing his versatility. The beat for "Up" has an ambient feel, and makes use of a backward sample. It certainly fits a producer who calls himself Xperiment. Kid Hum handles production on "Shoeless Joe," which features a loop of what sounds like a nylon string guitar, and when combined with the hook it has a sort of soothing effect.
As good as the beats are, though, Braille is the star. His lyricism and delivery have never been better, and his flow isn't weighed down by the weighty topics that he has chosen to tackle. In fact, he seems to have come through the trials of life with a few scrapes and scratches, but thanks to his relationship with the Father, no mortal injuries.
My only real "complaint" really is the title. With its depiction of a grenade inside a Kool-Aid pitcher, one might expect this album to be heavy with battle rhymes, but that's obviously not the case. It's a curious choice, that just from listening I don't really understand. I'm sure there's a meaning, and maybe I'll eventually puzzle it out. But really, if that's the only thing I can find to pick on, then I suppose I can live with it.
Braille has always impressed me, but never as much as he has with Weapon Aid. From the concepts to the beats to the lyrics, he has dropped an instant classic.
Purchase on iTunes.
Label: Talking Textures / Syntax Records
Release Date: 4/27/10
1. Get Well Soon
2. Give Myself
6. Shoeless Joe
7. Resurrect Me
8. Revenge (The Right Way) featuring Ruslan and Beleaf of theBreax
9. Nothing Left To Say