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Braille Headed for light From Portland comes the divine trio known as Lightheaded, consisting of Ohmega Watts, Braille and Othello. Each sharing individual success with team prosperity, Lightheaded is the crew that makes it happening these days. 'Wrong Way' is their second album (following 'Pure Thoughts' from 2003) and issued earlier this year on Tres Records. Braille, who also founded his own Hiphop IS Music label enlightens us about the group's current affairs.

The new album is entitled 'Wrong Way', can you explain why you picked this name and in what sense it reflects on your music?

When we first came up with the concept, we were travelling all over the U.S. on tour. We were doing shows in bars, churches, parks, houses.... we were all over the place. What we learned from those experiences is that we can be ourselves no matter where we go. So the idea is that, we can try new things musically, and we can go to new places, but we don't need to lose touch with who we are. We can do those things without going the 'wrong way'. We also found that our operations were very 'unconventional' compared to your average 'modern' hip-hop recording artist. Based on the mainstream representation of hip-hop, our sound and lifestyle is going in a completely different direction. So, if what you see in the videos is the right way, then I guess we're going the 'wrong way'.

The album is released on Tres Records, how did you hook up with Thes One of People Under The Stairs, owner of the label?

We did a show in Portland opening for J-Live and People Under the Stairs. Thes One heard us sound checking and started chatting with us afterwards. He was telling us about Tres Records and we kept building from there. Eventually, we made a trip to Cali to meet with the whole Giant Panda family and the rest is history.

Giant Panda dropped an album on the label too...

Yeah, a lot of people don't know that Chikara from Giant Panda is one of the main owners of the label. Thes One was the A&R who discovered us, but Chikara is who we talk with about all the business stuff.

Are you fans of People Under The Stairs?

We've been digging their music for a long time. I can remember bumping instrumental versions to some of their early albums with Ohmega during road trips. They are one of the most consistent groups within the 'style' of hip-hop they create.

There's a line in the song 'Orientation', which goes as follows; 'My opinion is tainted with golden age's favourites', what years are the golden ages for you?

We all grew up on early 90's hip-hop. We also dug into the late 80's, but the early to mid-90's were our greatest influence. We were all big fans of A Tribe Call Quest, De La, Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth and so forth. Many of the same people that most artists from our generation were influenced by.

Your previous album 'Pure Thoughts' was received well in the underground scene... were you happy with that response or was you expecting it to blow up even more?

Honestly, we did 'Pure Thoughts' as a side project when we started it. The album became much more successful than we could have ever imagined. We aren't big-headed artists who feel like we 'deserve' to blow up. We are just doing our best to be faithful over the platform in front of us. The support we've gotten from all over the world means a lot to us. We don't take it for granted.

In what way does 'Pure Thoughts' differ from 'Wrong Way', not only on the musical side but the vision/message behind it?

The main difference between 'Pure Thoughts' and 'Wrong Way' is the production. For our first album, Muneshine did all the beats. Once Lightheaded became a serious group and started touring, Muneshine was unable to travel with us. He was living in Toronto, and everyone else in the group was living in Portland. Eventually, Ohmega started taking on some of the production duties for the crew. The new album still features a track from Muneshine, and also has contributions from Stro of the Procussions and Tony Stone. The message and vision of Lightheaded is still pretty much the same. We have grown closer as a group, and we just understand our vision with more clarity now.

Stro made two beats on the new album, Othello featured on The Procussions track 'Conquered'. Are there more collabo's between you and The Pro's coming up?

Our whole crew is really close with the Procussions. 'Conquered' was actually an Othello song from his album 'Classic' and Mr. J of the Procussions did the beat. The only song with everyone from both crews rapping together so far is 'That Sound' from the Ohmega Watts album. Stro also did beats on my new record. Stro and Mr. J both did beats on the latest Othello album.

'Pure Thoughts' was released on Day By Day, how did that come together?

The initial release of 'Pure Thoughts' came out on Day By Day, but the album was eventually re-released under Hiphop IS Music. During the time when we dropped 'Pure Thoughts', Day By Day was being run by DJ Fisher, who now runs Domination. Me and Fisher had been good friends for a while, so when we had the record done, we sent him a copy to see if he would be interested. The rest is history. Grimm is now running Day By Day, and we got love for both companies, Day By Day and Domination.

Lightheaded and its affiliates are known for having a strong connection with Japan as for releasing records. Why do you want to break into the Japan market?

We never had a specific 'plan' for breaking into the Japan market. When we dropped 'Pure Thoughts', we got a lot of really good feedback from Japan. Then a lot of doors started opening. All of our group records and solo records have been well received in Japan. We did one tour there as a group, and each member of Lightheaded has toured there solo as well. The Japan scene has been very welcoming, honest and supportive of us. We enjoy every visit and we look forward to more visits in the future.

How come all of you appear on different labels as solo artists' Are the different labels a good choice to establish your names in a more widely/secure sense?

One of our goals as a group has been to support each other as solo artists. We all have goals in music that we want to accomplish, and all of our goals are unique. As solo artists, we try to work with labels that are best fit for our music. Ohmega works with Ubiquity, and this has been great for him as a producer. It gives him a chance to focus on the 'music' and try new things. Othello is working with a label in Japan called Mic Life. His albums feature a full jazz band and the Japanese market has really embraced the sound. I have worked with a couple labels during my career, but right now I've been building towards the next stage with my management. I recently started being managed by the same company who manages James Brown. This has given me great touring opportunities and a bigger vision for the future of my music.

You founded the label 'Hiphop Is Music'. Did you found it alone or any other Lightheaded member involved?

Hiphop IS Music was founded as a one-man-operation. I did my own promotions, financing, distribution and everything. Ohmega does all the graphic design for the label, so he is an active part of the team but not an owner.

Are there Lightheaded members gonna be signed to the label?

Hiphop IS Music will always support all Lightheaded related releases, but I never want the label to get in the way of good opportunities for any of us. Even if we all signed to major labels tomorrow, I would still be running Hiphop IS Music and pushing other artists through it. It's a passion of mine.... not just for the sake of getting my own music out, but more for the sake of putting out other artists who I believe in.

Why do you want to start your own label, because it seems to me there are a lot of decent independent labels right now, such as Tres Records for instance...?

I agree that there are many, really good labels, but there are also many artists who still haven't found any homes. There are a few things that makes Hiphop IS Music unique. All the records we release are curse-free. Most of the artists on Hiphop IS Music are married and work full-time jobs. During the years where Lightheaded was touring a lot, I would meet a lot of great artists who had already passed their 'prime'. By 'prime', I don't mean they weren't good anymore, but they had grown up. They had responsibilities, a family and things like that. They couldn't just hit the road whenever they wanted. But I still feel these artists have valid contributions they can make to the hip-hop community. So my goal has been to provide them with the resources they need to make a quality record, and then make their records available for the hip-hop community. In many cases the music industry can be a burden for artists, with Hiphop IS Music I want to be a blessing to them. I don't care if we get famous, or if we blow up. At the end of the day, I just want us to be able to make records that we enjoy, and I just want us to be happy in our personal lives. That's what this label is about for me.

Tell us more about Sivion...

We met Sivion in Texas at a 4th of July cook-out. We've been friends ever since. He dropped an album called 'Spring of the Songbird' on Hiphop IS Music this year. It's a great record.

You released a few solo albums yourself, do you feel like your solo projects are a part of promoting the Lightheaded crew in its own, or is it really more personal stuff?

Our solo stuff helps the group, and the group helps our solo stuff. We are accomplishing promotion on both sides, and also getting a chance to share ourselves in both settings as artists. Our solo stuff does tend to be a bit more personal, but we also get personal in our music together as well.

You all were involved in several groups could you give a short overview?

Me and Ohmega used to be in a group together called Return To Sender, since 1999, and we also did a side project under the name Acts 29. Othello was in a group called Lojique, which is still active today, minus Othello.

What does God add to your music?

God is the foundation and focus of our lives. Our music is a reflection of things from our lives, and he is our life source. We are constantly growing in our personal lives through our relationships with Jesus, and that plays a great effect on our art.

Do you pray a lot?

Prayer is a big part of my life. I've been married now for 4 years. Me and my wife spend time reading the Bible and praying together almost every night. It's rare that I spend hours at once praying, but prayer is a big part of my day to day life.

Do you like the way the subject of religion is touched by Kanye West' It seems like the matter is fully accepted in the mainstream world, look at Nas' notorious and successful video clip 'Hate Me Now'... Religion and commercialism go hand in hand...

I think 'religion' has always been a mainstream topic. It's a huge part of our society. It's something that we constantly abuse. It's often mis-understood and poorly represented. For me, it's not about 'religion' though. That is just the practise of belief. I'm not trying to represent a religion, but more so represent the gospel of Jesus Christ and be a reflection of God's love to the best of my ability. I am far from perfect, but I strive for perfection as I draw closer to God and understand his heart.

What are Lightheaded's future plans?

All three members have new solo records in the works. Othello's is already done and is called 'Alive at the Assembly Line'. Braille just dropped a new record in Japan called 'Box of Rhymes' and the record is being revised for a worldwide release. Ohmega is working on his next single for Ubiquity. We also plan to do another Lightheaded album. Our tentative title is 'Lo-fi Heights'.

Lookin forward. Thanks.

 

POSTED 07|01|2006
conducted by cpf

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