Bruna knows the Swap Shop like the back of his hand — which comes as no surprise, since he's been visiting the flea market for decades. "My friends and I used to always go see the circus, but we'd get up before the elephants went on," he says. "You know, to make people think we had a real issue with the elephants" — midsentence, he points to a holographic portrait of a nude woman morphing into a tiger — "I can't believe nobody has purchased that yet. It's perfect."

Despite his constant touring and taking residence in cities all over the world, including Berlin and Montreal, Bleubird will always call Florida home. The 34-year-old rapper grew up in Pembroke Pines, raised by a Jewish mother and an Italian father who provided a fairly traditional life for him and his older brother, who is now with law enforcement. Bruna reminisces about his father's strict feelings about videogames, rides in the back of his brother's bass-thumping Volkswagen Beetle, and his hip-hop-themed 13th birthday party. His family labeled it a "confibitz" — a combination of a confirmation and bar mitzvah.

The following Saturday afternoon, the "Pimp Hand" video shoot commences in Miami's arts district with more than a dozen people participating. While Bleubird and a motley crew run amok on the streets of the graffiti-covered Wynwood, his police friend has been standing by since 7 a.m. to ensure that the production isn't shut down.

Around noon, Bruna's parents — his father decked out in a gray Bleubird T-shirt — arrive on the scene in a black SUV filled with trays of home-cooked pasta, salad, and chicken to feed the famished music video team. With so many supporters in his corner, the question remains: Why has it taken this long for a U.S. record release from a rapper with a decadelong career? Bruna rattles his brain for an answer but explains with confidence that it hasn't been due to a lack of effort. And he feels the path taken was for the best.

Cannonball!!! will be the first of the Fake Four Inc. label's releases in 2012. With this deeply personal album, Bleubird set out to make something he's never created, and production by Astronautalis and Radical Face brought out a more melodic sound with live instrumentation that contrasts sharply with the gritty beats he used in the past. It includes "Geihe 1977," dedicated to the small village of Bonfigliara, Italy, where his father is from and named after the bottles of wine his grandfather made the year Bruna was born.

The project took well over a year to finish and required Bruna to continue what he's done for the past decade: move well outside of his comfort zone.

"I really took a huge leap of faith with making this album," he says. "But at the end of the day, I'm happy with what I did. I can live with myself. I didn't go too far to where I'm like, 'Wow, that's not me.' I can still see it as being me."

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2 comments
Seth Alexander Lassman
Seth Alexander Lassman

great article, betsey! just one correction: 

"he shares the historic two-bedroom duplex with his best friend, chair weiner..." 

that is all.

setlasmon, @rare_form:twitter 

 
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