Brailin Paulino (aka Reach) is a hip-hop artist from Fresno, California. He graduated from Cornell this past May, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Human Development, Business and Communications. He has performed and collaborated with the likes of Alex Faith, Loso, and Ian Kenville. When he is not writing, producing or recording music, you can catch him (if you can) on the track field.
This interview is the first of a two-part series.
Zachary Lee (Z): Thanks for being willing to talk, Brailin! I appreciate it. For those who are not super familiar with you or your music, how did you first get interested in making music, and what inspired your stage name?
Brailin Paulino (B): I began to write poems in like the 7th grade because I’ve always been a hopeless romantic aha. After some time, I began to write because it is what people were doing. It was never really serious. I then joined a rap ministry group that focused on reaching the youth. During my second year at Cornell, I realized that I could be doing so much more with my music. I realized that if I actually took it seriously, I could do great things! I made the necessary changes, watched YouTube videos, asked professionals and boom, two parts of an album came out of it. My name is Reach because I want to reach people at a personal level. Forget turning up and talking about nonsense. I want to talk about real life struggles and show how I overcame them. I put in so much time into my music because it is my outlet and it is the way I speak best. This album will show my growth in just one year since my very first album.
Z: I loved your latest project “My Shoes” (listen here). It was an impressive EP that had a lot of unique sounds but also served as a very poignant introduction to who you are. With this new project, how do you think you have grown the most? Do you go deeper with any concepts you explored with “My Shoes” or would you say this is completely new territory?
B: I think this is similar territory, except I refused to hold anything back. So in “After This,” I share even some of my deepest secrets that I had not told anyone about. I grew so much as a producer and artist. I put so much time and effort into this album, and I’m so excited to share it.
Z: The title “After This” is really interesting; it almost implies that you’re talking about the aftermath of a major climactic moment. What inspired the title?
B: My life has been a whole bunch of significant moments all coming together at the same time to make me who I am today. I talked about the biggest moments that made me who I am today. So after this album, you will understand me a lot more. I expect this album to open up the floor for conversation in which I hope to reach people at a personal level. Stories have so much power, and I hope to use my story to give people inspiration to keep going.
Z: Continuing the trend from “My Shoes,” on “After This” you talk about some pretty heavy subjects. Tracks that stuck out to me were “Bleeding Heart Pt. 2” and “Say It.” How do you engage in these topics in a way that is authentic and also talk about the Gospel? I feel like so often, a big critique of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) and CHH (Christian Hip-Hop) is that they sometimes do try to “neatly package” the Gospel but never are willing to engage real issues.
B: Honestly, I just talk from the heart. Some of these songs legit made me cry as I wrote them. God clearly is who held me together through all of this and is the reason why I am relatively okay now. There is no package. I just tell my story and show people the real me. Will I say Jesus or God in every song? No, but people will understand that none of these events in my life would have caused my growth without God.
Z: A lot about music is tension and release, and you really exemplified this through the tracklist. After a heavy track like “Kitchen Knife,” you followed it up with “Baddest Chick” (which is definitely going to be a Summer anthem!), yet the transition did not feel too jarring. What was the intention of doing this? Did you find that a majority of the songs you wrote were more serious and then you sprinkled in a few more light-hearted/hype tracks?
B: I put all my songs in order. They all happened pretty closely to the order on the list! I guess they turned out to transition beautifully! My toughest struggle in this aspect was having “too many” emotional songs, but hey, who cares? My life was pretty emotional haha.
Z: Throughout tracks like “Know Better” and “HLL,” you rap both in English and Spanish, often switching between them effortlessly! What was the reason for including Spanish? Would you consider making a whole album completely in Spanish down the line at all?
B: I included Spanish because it is at the core of who I am! I realized I was shaming away from using Spanish because I wasn’t comfortable, but I realized that I cannot preach about being comfortable in your own skin if I fail to do so.
Z: Having listened to the album several times over, I think there’s enough content to here to digest and muse over for a long time. But, I know your work ethic and that you never stop grinding haha. You’re dropping Pt. 2 later in the fall! Is there anything that listeners can expect from “After This” Pt. 2?
B: I couldn’t fit the story into just 15 songs. I wrote my list down and had 30 songs planned. I couldn’t hit people with so much content, so Pt. 2 will be titled, “You’ll Know Me.” People will see who I am now and the effects of the events in my life that shaped that. Pt. 2 is where I plan to show off a little in every aspect. A few full songs in Spanish? Who knows…
Reach’s album “After This” Pt. 1 comes out this Friday. Be sure to buy/stream the project when it is released! Follow him on his new Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/iam_reach/