Reviewed by Trey Palmisano
Beats 2 1/2
Rhymes 3 1/2
Overall 6 of 10
Dark, dour, and unpleasant subject matter are just some of the initial impressions that came to mind as I listened through Braille’s latest work Weapon Aid. Amidst these swirling storms of self-examination that bubble up in his lyrics, the celebrations of God’s goodness and the chipper lighthearted metaphors that were so common in his earlier songs have all but evaporated in a pain that seems urgent and real.
With the title Weapon Aid, I anticipated hearing music that encourages the individual to put on the full armor of God – that irrepressible command issued by Paul to don the battle pieces capable of withstanding the fiery darts of the enemy. But if this was the intended message, it was overshadowed by the battle itself. The battle is what Weapon Aid is about. And it’s not for the faint of heart.
The trajectory of Braille’s last two albums has developed away from the sounds of youthful exuberance and joy and has headed towards weightier subject matter. From fake and phony preachers to the loss of his father, to his own personal struggles in measuring up to Christ’s ideal image, Braille’s life story is an open book for all to read. Of course, this may just be the natural progression of a mature emcee. And there are still the tribute songs to his wife or the encouraging bible verses sprinkled in for good measure, both of which have been a part of his repertoire for the past three albums. But while the occasional sense of God’s purpose or plan comes through, Braille’s emotional catharsis is tinged with a kind of self-absorption which at times can be frustrating as the mirror that he looks in grows bigger and more unforgiving over time.
The music accompaniment also is faithful to the lyrics. Haunting and stirring at the same time, as in the morose piano keys on “Resurrect Me,” or the ethereal lilting chords on “Nothing Left to Say,” to the synthesizers on “Up,” this is just a darker album.
“Get Well Soon” starts out promising enough with Braille’s trademark delivery. “Give Myself,” is another ode to his wife which comes on the heels of a consistent procession of tribute songs over the past albums. “Poison” tells the story of betrayal, lies, and heartache by a loved one. Where the small comforts of faith do come out, it’s hard to hear them above the clamor of Braille’s hardships. Further admissions of weakness, defeat, and imperfection come through on “Resurrect Me.” Of course, this is not to say all such subject matter is bad. If you’re in this place in your own life, you will connect with these songs. Better yet, you need to connect with these songs. And if there’s anything anesthetic about these woes, it is that misery loves company…and it’s not always a bad thing to share your pain with others so that they may work through their own.
In terms of his contributions to the genre, Braille remains at the top of his game as a lyricist. He commands a wide vocabulary and is still at the height of his powers insofar as his ability to tell a story.
A few breakthrough songs like “Shoeless Joe” talks of God’s glory and grace only to discourage those who look up to Braille not to follow the same path. Even with the more upbeat music in “Surgical,” the pain of separation from a loved one is palpable.
Subject matter of substance is a powerful motif in spiritual music, and there surely is a season for everything under heaven. It’s been a tough year for Braille. Braille says on “Up,” “it doesn’t get lower than this/the only way left to go is up.” In “Surgical,” he admits he’s “living in a nightmare he can’t wake up from.” Just as the waitress in the “Get Well Soon” track promises that after you eat through Weapon Aid, the dessert will be much lighter, given all that Braille’s been through, let’s hope to see the music return to more upbeat, high-energy tempos in future projects.
For fans of: Lightheaded, HipHop Is Music
Purchase CD – download – iTunes