Breis - Brother Reaching Each Inner SoulI met up with emcee / producer Breis (pronounced Breeze) in Brixton to discuss all things hip-hop and more. Finding a table in the sun, the interview turned into a chilled out conversation as Breis is a more mature kind of artist making a change from some of the negative attitudes currently pervasive in UK hip-hop.

His music is a refreshing return to the organic, jazzy sound that has been absent from the scene for a while. A friendlier chap couldn’t be found and I was interested to hear where he’d been since his first 12” ‘sounds so fresh’ in 2001.

Introduce yourself…

My name is Breis which stands for Brother Reaching Each Inner Soul. I’ve been into rapping, emceeing, hip-hop for, boy, about 12, 13 years. I took it really seriously from around ’97 when I started a night with some friends called Urban Griots in Brixton at the Bug Bar. I went to get all my emcee friends, I called Ty, he came down. ’97, that was kinda like my year stepping out, before that I was more of a bedroom emcee. I started hosting that event and just getting more into the hip-hop community.

The new EP…

It’s called the Identity EP, 4 tracks out on an independent label, King Solomon Records. It was actually almost accidental (how it came about) ‘cause really it was a case of I just restarted doing a few more gigs and people really wanted material so I just pressed up 1000 CDs. Initially we were just gonna sell it at gigs, but what we realised was that a lot of people were really asking about it and we didn’t really want to put it out properly, so we thought we’d do the digital download thing because that’s what seems to be the best route. It’s on iTunes and Amazon as well. So now, doing a bit of marketing its kinda snowballed into a proper release. We’re looking at maybe getting more distribution and maybe on vinyl and get it into the major shops as well.

The beats…

I do most of the beats, but I work with other people as well. I got Drew playing a few things on one of the tracks. For the track ‘Strictly’, I originally did it then I took it to Leroy (Leroy Brown) and we kinda redid it together, and I called Eska (Eska Mtungwazi) to come in on that track as well. (I use) MC2000XL. Bangin’ away, I feel like an oldtimer man, ‘cause everyone’s just on Logic, Reason. What was interesting, the track ‘Wordpower’ for example, I just knocked that up really quickly and that was me kinda getting back into producing again because I hadn’t done it for a little while.

Breis - Brother Reaching Each Inner Soul

First experience of hip-hop…

Probably back in Nigeria listening to Roxanne Shante and loving her, and breakdancing, that was my thing so I used to get into battles in school. I lived in Nigeria for 6 years.

The Elements of hip-hop…

The elements are all important. I think now they aren’t as unified as maybe they used to be. Its kinda like a ‘Wu Tang effect’ where everyone’s splintered off doing their own thing and they’re doing well in their own elements. B-boying is big, turntablism is doing well. I think graffiti in a way is doing alright, but there’s not enough unison probably between the other elements and graffiti, and the emceeing thing is… I don’t even know. That’s a whole other thing. I guess it’s flourishing, but I don’t think all the elements are unified. I don’t think you get a show where all the elements are present.

American accents in UK hip-hop…

Funky DL is one of my favourite rappers and producers and mainly because I got his first album ‘Classic Was The Day’ and I loved it so I’ve always been a fan, his work output is brilliant so I really respect him. With the accent thing, there might be some who actually force it or put it on, but I don’t think that really the case anymore. I don’t think for the most part that people were intentionally doing it, I think it was more of a subconscious thing.

There was actually a time, around 95, 96 I remember rapping, battling with one of my friends and he was giving me props, he was like “those bars were tight!” and he said the flow was incredible, I sounded like an American. I was like “what?” and right there and then I actually contemplated giving up rap. Because I had no idea that my accent had an American twang to it. I don’t know where it came from so I actually wanted to stop rapping back then. But obviously when you are aware of it, then you consciously make sure that you start rapping in your own accent.

Breis - Brother Reaching Each Inner Soul

Keyboard production versus digging and samples…

If it’s good it’s good. If it’s wack and it done using synths or keyboards then it’s wack, but if it’s good it’s good, cause some of them tracks is really good.

Musical icons…

Breis - Brother Reaching Each Inner SoulBreis:
Over the last few years I’ve kinda not been as big a fan as I used to be when I was growing up. Mainly of rap, but I’m still a big fan of Roots Manuva. I’m a big Biggie fan. He’s like someone who inspired me to be even better. I remember growing up rapping thinking I was the best that no one could challenge me. I had that arrogant confidence that an emcee has, and when I heard Biggie I was like yeah, you know what, he might be able to test me still, so I thought I need to step up a bit. I wanted to collaborate with Big Pun, that was always a dream of mine. I really do like a lot of rappers like Roots Manuva, Sway, Lupe Fiasco, there’s loads man, Talib, Common, K’naan.

I just started getting back into rap last year. Again. I was anti-rap for a little while, even though I’m a rapper. I couldn’t listen to most of what was out there. It was either too vulgar or was just rubbish. The thing with music is that it’s not really censored so people just throw stuff out, it’s not like you need to a license to be a good emcee or to bring out quality music.

Internet and downloading…

I don’t worry about it necessarily. Maybe that’s because it hasn’t affected me personally, maybe that’s why I can say that. Myspace has done really well, that’s really helped. You get a wider reach as well, people in different countries.

Next US President…

Anything’s possible. But one thing I’ve realised is that nothing is always the way it seems. He could win it (Obama) but then whose to say we wasn’t put in there to win it just to show that America can be fair. At the same time it could be a disaster or it could be great so who knows man.

Breis - Brother Reaching Each Inner Soul

If there was no music…

Maybe acting. I was thinking about that the other day, how some people are like, yeah ‘music is my life’, and music for me isn’t my life, it’s part of my life. My life is bigger than just the music so I do other things, a lot of educational work in schools, but then even that is tied into my music. I do rap and hip-hop poetry workshops in schools. Probably I’d be working with kids or a big business man travelling the world.

Advice for new artists…

Breis - Brother Reaching Each Inner SoulBreis:
Go to school! It’s a hard one because sometimes I can contradict myself in that what I’m doing isn’t necessarily what I want others to do. I think there are too many young people becoming artists and there needs to be more people doing entertainment law or management. We need better managers, we need better lawyers. We need marketing people. The thing that’s killed or has been messing up hip-hop in this country is that there’s no great marketing for the scene because the scene over here is a lot smaller than in the states but there are other ways of marketing what we do to the whole country and no-ones cracked that so. So don’t just think about being an artist, think about getting into the other side of it where you can make even more money. If you want to be an artist, then be a fantastic one, study your artform , be the best that you can possibly be and add to the richness of the scene basically.

Political worldview…

I don’t really concern myself with that. I’m more about spiritual upliftment so I don’t really focus on that. Not that it’s not important, but like I said, things aren’t always what they seem. A lot of the things that we’re fed and we’re receiving from the media isn’t necessarily what it really is so sometimes we’re all ranting and raving about a whole pack of lies. We don’t actually really know what’s really going on, so for me its more important that I just keep walking the righteous path, make sure my people are cool. I keep doing the best that I can do and be the change that I want to see in society.

Make sure you hit up Breis on myspace and check for his forthcoming album ‘student of life’ due for release in June.

By: ESH | For worldwide hip-hop:

Breis - The Identity EP [King Solomon]

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