In addition to running his own record label (Hiphop is Music) and sharing the stage with Ohmega Watts in Lightheaded, Portland's Bryan Winchester has somehow found the time to release solo records under his emcee moniker Braille. If your personal golden era of hiphop begins with Arrested Development and ends when Tribe Called Quest hung up the mic, then you are in luck. Braille's relaxed flow and upbeat call to action will take you back to the best of '90s-era hiphop, a few years past the Cross Colors and fades, but long before the genre took a nosedive into comical thuggery and spinning rims.
MERCURY: It has been years between the release of Shades of Grey and your latest album Box of Rhymes. How do you think you've changed as both a writer and an emcee since Shades of Grey?
BRAILLE: I started Shades of Grey in 2000 (my senior year of high school) and continued working on the record for four years on and off. With Box of Rhymes I was in a whole new place; I had been married, I had my first child on the way, I [had] just bought my first home, I was running a record label and making a living off of music. With all those responsibilities I was extremely busy. So when I did get time to write Box of Rhymes, it seemed like the songs just came out more personal.
How did you get Speech from Arrested Development to appear on the new album?
I met Speech at a show we did together in San Diego that was a benefit for getting more clean water in Africa. I gave Speech a copy of Shades of Grey and to my surprise he sent me an email shortly after we met and we began building a friendship through email. He was coming to Portland to do a show, so we recorded a track ("Antenna") together. He recently asked me to feature on a song called "Our Moment" for his next album, and that was a real honor for me.
I read that you have traveled with, and opened shows for the late James Brown. How did that come about?
Yeah, I actually did 20 shows opening for James Brown between 2005 and 2006. I think I opened more shows for him then any other artist during the last years of his life. His management company discovered some of my music and they offered me a chance to open for James Brown at the B.B. King Blues Grill in New York's Times Square. It was a huge shock. Aside from New York, I also opened for James Brown in Spain, Denmark, Los Angeles, Estonia, and many more spots. It was an unforgettable experience that further developed my confidence to continue being myself and carve my own path in this music industry.
Braille performs at the Doug Fir on Tuesday, February 13.