Portland, Ore.-based hip-hop group LightHeaded raps about its spiritual beliefs for a secular record label, Florida's Day by Day Entertainment. But it's not fair to simply tag LightHeaded "a Christian hip-hop group" and dismiss its place in the Pacific Northwest rap underground.
Three emcees - Braille, Ohmega Watts and Othello - working with producer Muneshine, make party music in the style they listened to in elementary school: early '90s rap crews such as De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest and Pharcyde. You're likely to hear funk, rock, reggae and jazz - samples of jazz pianist Chick Correa alongside tripped-out '70s riffs from Blood, Sweat and Tears.
LightHeaded says there's room in there for their convictions. They're never overbearing; they just talk about what they know.
The three emcees, without their producer, play the Juneau Christian Center at 7 p.m. Friday, May 30. LightHeaded will perform with three other acts, Atlanta's Mars ILL, Portland's Paul "Pauly Paul" Wright and Juneau's What Remains. Admission is $10.
"Some people hear the name and say, 'LightHeaded. Do you smoke weed?' " Ohmega said. "No we don't. It's in a literal sense of we're headed for light;
Paul "Pauly Paul" Wright
we're heading in that direction. Our whole mission is to bring a refreshing atmosphere to the stagnant smell of commercial hip-hop."
"Our main focus with music is to communicate what's going on inside," Braille said. "Musicians speak their heart, and they speak their lives. Being Christian, when we speak about our lives, we speak about paying bills, driving cars and God."
The concept is true-school hip-hop, and not that much different from any rapper who talks about streets and motivations. LightHeaded's first compact disc, "Pure Thoughts," was released in late January and includes appearances by Manchild of Mars ILL and Pigeon John of LA Symphony. Both are stars in the growing secular hip-hop underground.
"I don't think our music is secular just because we share from the heart and we're believers in Christ," Othello said. "We make music to communicate. It has an appeal, because we choose not to lack as far as quality in music or beats or topic of discussion. The secular market appreciates the sound of our music. They see we're genuine and relevant at the same time."
LightHeaded has developed a steady following in the Northwest with spot dates and hopes to be "big enough" for a tour in the summer of 2004. Members are trying to press "Pure Thoughts" on vinyl and release a single.
Ohmega grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and moved to Orlando, Fla., for high school. Braille was born in Portland, Ore., and lived in New Jersey for a few years. The two met in early 1999 at a festival in Orlando and discovered they had the same tastes in hip-hop.
"We were both similar personalities," Braille said. "Open to work with people who were open to work."
They formed a group called Return To Sender. Braille moved back to Portland. And Ohmega followed in the summer of 2001, hoping to work on the project. Instead, they released a Christian-based album for their church in early 2002 under the name Acts 29.
Othello, who lives in Seattle, was playing with a group called Logic in 2002. He met Braille and Ohmega at a festival in Washington state.
At about the same time, Braille met Muneshine, a producer in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on an mp3 Web Site.
"I heard his beats and they were too good for just me," Braille said. "I said let me get Ohmega and Othello, and we all blended together."
"The concept of the group is the idea of remaining optimistic and positive in the midst of chaos," Braille said. "Really, to remain refreshed. A lot of time we get to the point where we need to be replenished. We're trying to refresh ourselves and refresh the listener."
"We each have our individual styles," Ohmega said. "We like a lot of the same artists, but our execution is different. We just keep going back to pure thoughts. We're trying to interject real life into the world. We're bringing who we are."
May 30th music lineup
What Remains, the alter-ego of Juneau acoustic guitarist David Conway, will open. He records for his own label, Dave's Bedroom Records.
Paul "Pauly Paul" Wright, an acoustic guitarist from Portland, Ore., will play second. This is his second appearance in Juneau.
LightHeaded, also from Portland, will perform third.
Atlanta's Mars ILL, a two-person hip-hop crew with Soulheir the Manchild and DJ Dust, will headline. Mars ILL has a new record, "Backbreakanomics," due out Aug. 19.
Korry Keeker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.