Beautiful Eulogy was supposed to be a production team made up of Odd Thomas and Courtland Urbano.
Satellite Kite was supposed to be an Odd Thomas solo album.
But before those pursuits had even begun, a series of unpredictable events brought Odd Thomas, Urbano and Braille—the Beautiful Eulogy trio which released its second project, Instruments of Mercy, on Oct. 29—together as members of Humble Beast Records.
Braille and Odd Thomas Meet
Braille and Odd Thomas weren’t best friends at first sight.
They met outside of a concert in Los Angeles 13 years ago, estimated Braille. A few years later, they worked together for the first time, again in California.
A member of Science Project, Odd Thomas’ group at the time, asked Braille to feature on a song. Odd Thomas played the role of audio engineer in the studio as Braille recorded his verse. They began to build a relationship at the 2008 GMA Dove Awards years after that, but didn’t become close until Odd Thomas and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon—Braille’s hometown—about five years ago.
When they found each other at the same Sunday evening service, Thomas invited Braille to a Bible study at his house. Their friendship blossomed, doing so to the point that they started a record label together, Humble Beast.
“I was going to start another label [Talking Textures],” Braille told Wade-O Radio. “[Odd Thomas] was going to start Humble Beast. We were going to help each other out because I had experience in some sides and he had experience in other sides. We just canned that and decided to team up.”
They didn’t know then that it wouldn’t be the last time they joined forces musically, the next instance in a trio.
Braille and Courtland Urbano Meet
A 17-year-old Urbano loved underground Christian hip hop. Naturally, he grew up listening to Braille. And when Braille announced a four-stop Colorado tour that went through Urbano’s hometown of Denver, the teen sent him a message on Myspace.
“Hey man, saw that you’re coming to Denver,” Urbano recalled. “I’m a huge fan. If you need anything like a ride to the airport or a place to stay, just let me know.”
Turns out, underground Christian hip-hop artists aren’t intercepted by limousine from the landing strip of their private jets. Braille needed a ride from the airport. He replied to Urbano, who then passed the news along to his best friend—Shawn “DJ Idull” Herman—who then offered Braille his services as a DJ.
Braille accepted that, too. As a result, Urbano covered Herman’s shift at work the evening that Braille arrived to allow the DJ practice time with the rapper. With Urbano stuck at work, his mother ended up giving Braille a ride from the airport [“because she’s just awesome like that,” Urbano told Wade-O Radio].
She drove Braille back to their home where Urbano and Herman housed their music equipment. There, Urbano finally met Braille after work as he practiced with Herman.
“I was star struck the first time meeting him,” Urbano admitted, “which is hilarious looking back.”
After Braille’s stint in Denver, he invited Herman to DJ on tours in Japan and Europe. Urbano, who Braille had no idea made beats at the time, grew closer to the hip-hop artist over time through his best friend’s relationship with him. When Braille finally stumbled upon Urbano’s production equipment while visiting his home, their working relationship began (slowly).
The beats that Urbano submitted for The IV didn’t make the cut. One did for Weapon Aid, however, which turned into “Up.” Around that time, Urbano had been invited to participate in the Neck Brace producer showcase in Portland. There, he met the new co-owner of Humble Beast, Odd Thomas.
Odd Thomas and Courtland Urbano Meet
Urbano had wanted to move to Portland years prior to his appearance at Neck Brace. He fell in love with the city after a week-long visit for his 20th birthday. On Urbano’s first trip to Portland, he met a friend who he stayed with upon his return.
Someone else also stayed with said friend over Urbano’s second stint in Portland, Humble Beast artist Propaganda.
The emcee attended the Neck Brace showcase and Urbano’s production impressed him. He quickly called Odd Thomas, telling him he needed to come and check Urbano out.
As the producer looked up after packing his bags, on stage stood Odd Thomas who introduced himself.
“From there, we basically just started building,” said Urbano. “I remember going over to his place and the guys were working on a song for a Rapzilla compilation. I was going through some beats I had made and they were like, ‘Yo, we need that beat for this.’”
That beat turned into the instrumental for the title track of the first King Kulture album.
Odd Thomas and Urbano grew closer throughout the week. Urbano eventually expressed his desire to move to Portland. And by the end of Urbano’s stay, Odd Thomas had introduced the idea of adding the producer formerly known as Xperiment to Humble Beast.
“Thomas was definitely intentional about it because I think he saw my need to be around some good brothers,” said Urbano. “At the time, I was not in a church. It was just not a good situation spiritually for me at the time and so I think he saw the need that I had and I had a desire for that.”
A couple months later, Urbano had moved to Portland.
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