If the names Braille, Ohmega Watts, Othello and Muneshine ring a bell with you, you know more than I do. Hailing from different parts of the Northwest, the members of LightHeaded have set up shop in Portland, OR, with the intent to, as they say, “take things at their own pace, build together and create something refreshing, something positive, peaceful, easy to digest and easy on the ears.”
Which is exactly what they turn in with their first longplayer. Refreshing like a clear glass of water to the thirsty, the aptly titled “Pure Thoughts” promises to cleanse your system of potential bad vibes. If hip-hop feels like a drug to you sometimes, but one that leaves you messed up more often than you wish, then LightHeaded have a different way to take you to that higher level. Call it euphoria through euphony. Feelgood vibes don’t necessarily strike the right note with everybody. Especially if they seem forced, or too simplistic. Add the fact that in hip-hop, ‘a good time’ usually is ushered in with words and sounds that cause most folks only to scratch their heads. But in this case, it seems as if LightHeaded really have found a formula to make people feel good, regardless of gender, age or musical preference.
We’re talking grooving, engaging, soulful, uplifting music that never falls out of character. The man behind this music, Canadian producer Muneshine, shapes a professionally orchestrated musical body that is rough around the edges as well as smooth around the curves. Admittedly, it’s nothing we haven’t heard before, the basic foundation being a fusion of fat beats, thick basslines and overall pleasant sounds derived from various sampling sources of the soul and funk variety, and after the exciting opener “LightHeaded Anthem” you’re waiting in vain to get rocked like this once more, but in the end it’s hard to hold a grudge against music this good.
That said, if you’re beyond the point where good-natured hip-hop can touch you, then this record is not for you. That doesn’t mean that “Pure Thoughts” is a mindless celebration of all which is good. Because ultimately, LightHeaded want people to feel better, and you can only uplift people that are down. At one point, Ohmega admits: “I wanted this to be fun and now it’s somethin’ else.” So whether they discuss the perils of making the streets your home on “Street Corners” or “wonder why children enter shallow water and drown” on “Selfless”, they are aware that where is light, there is also shadow:
“I’m itchin’ for answers, stitchin’ my wounds shut
Many say I’m doomed, but, it’s time to move up
move on, remain strong regardless
It’s not where you’re from, it’s about where your heart is
Pure optimism when you got the rhythm, a life lined up
Even in rough times the light shines if you let it”
Like to many others, to LightHeaded, hip-hop has become both a form of escape and a means to address what made them seek that escape in the first place. As they say in the title track’s chorus: “When your whole world seems out of shape / and you just don’t know where to go / (we get lost in the mix) / but let ’em know when you find a way.” Music being one of those ‘ways’, they spend ample time talking about hip-hop and themselves, but they also mention another way to overcome struggles. LightHeaded are obviously motivated by spiritual convictions, which becomes more evident on some tracks than others. It’s quite a change to hear rappers be as submissive as LightHeaded are in their faith, but since they don’t neglect the demands of the regular hip-hop fan, there is absolutely no reason to put this group in a special department.
One key element in the success of “Pure Thoughts” is that LightHeaded always go at it with the same enthusiasm (with a dash of early ’90s Left Coast playfulness), whether they’re rapping about how fast your life can change over an appealing mixture of thick pads of bass, steeldrums and easy listening vocals on “Blink of an Eye”, or whether they just celebrate themselves and hip-hop with the party jam “Never Square”. LightHeaded’s intent may be to bless you with “pure thoughts for your quiet days,” but them days won’t be so quiet anymore once you put on this record.