Monday, February 8, 2010

Minnesota Monday: Brother Ali

Brother Ali is huge here in Minneapolis and has received mountains of raving reviews, so imagine my surprise when I realized we've never written about him before. I'll admit it took me a while to get on board since hip hop/rap isn't quite my scene, but Brother Ali has flow, erudition and meaning in his work that other artists completely lack. Pitchfork said of him, "If rap didn't exist, he'd be the greatest high school guidance counselor in Minneapolis." Brother Ali has been through a lot in his life - a painful divorce, homelessness, raising a son, bullying for being albino - and he has taken his experiences and put them into smart hip hop/rap concoctions that not only make you bob along but also listen.

In his latest and fifth release, Us, Brother Ali continues to produce remarkably raw and real tracks that explore a large array of human conflicts. Instead of using stories from his own life like he did on previous albums, Brother Ali focuses on the injustices and troubles that exist for others in this world."Babygirl" is a story about how a girlfriend still struggles with the after effects of childhood abuse, "The Travelers" contains an epic depiction of African slavery in America with lines that read like poetry, and then there's a lyrical masterpiece that takes three different lives (a female Somalian immigrant, a gay teenager with a Preacher for a father, and a child of divorced parents) and weaves them together as each struggle to make their two worlds balance in "Tight Rope."

Using the aptly titled Us, Brother Ali once again conveys the message of the Golden Rule. "The same color blood just pass through our veins/and tears taste the same when they're splashing your face/ The worlds getting too small to stand in one place/ it's like we're roommates just sharing a space."

Not gonna lie, whenever I listen to Brother Ali, I'm just like the kid at 1:19.

Us [mp3] (iTunes)

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