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Brother Ali

Brother Ali Standing Out in a Crowded Field

Brother Ali's socially conscious hip hip is making a mark.

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By Dan McPeake

Not many rappers can say that they worked as a Princeton Professor. But Brother Ali is not your typical rapper. Harkening back to the good ol’ days of socially-conscious hip-hop music, Brother Ali brings awareness to a whole new level with his latest album “Mourning in America, Dreaming in Colour”. Inspired by the Arab Spring and Occupy protests, “Mourning in America” cements Ali’s status as an A-list poet. And about that Princeton Professor; Dr. Cornel West (himself a friend of the Occupy Protests) has a spoken-word passage at the end of the first track, “Letter to My Countrymen”.

That is just the beginning of Ali’s a-typicalness in the hip-hop worl. He’s white, albino, blind, and Muslim. He also recently wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post outlining his support for such causes as gay marriage while at the same time expressing concern for the homophobic lyrics that are often expressed by fellow artists in his profession. (To outline this conundrum, he says that many rap artists – such as Tyler the Creator of Odd Future – expressed their support for Frank Ocean after he announced he was homosexual. Yet many of these same artists, still use homophobic and misogynistic lyrics in their work, most ironically, Ali points out, by Tyler the Creator himself.)

The album itself is very impressive. The title track “Mourning in America” has a more angry and violent feel than the rest of the record (and indeed Ali’s entire body of work) and starts off with the words “Murder, murder, murder; kill, kill, kill”; yet it is still chalk-full of Ali’s devotion to social justice. In addition to the aforementioned Dr. Cornel West, the album also features appearances from Middle Eastern rapper Amir Sulaiman (not to be confused with Omar Soulyeman), UGK rapper Bun B, Choklate & Tone Trezure. Not stopping there, the record was engineered by hotshot rap producer Jake One.

Brother Ali

Perhaps one reason Ali has done so well in the rap industry is because he felt most at home among African-Americans. As a child, he was often excluded by white classmates due to his condition. However, on his album “Undisputed Truth” he explains “"They ask me if I'm black or white, I'm neither/ race is a made up thing; I don't believe in it".

Ali feels that he is just one among many who is experience a “democratic re-awakening”. Many of this generation are becoming re-engaged in a battle that he describes as love (all human beings deserve dignity) vs. fear (as he puts it “the problem with fear and the problem with greed is that its faithless and it always needs to take more”). Those in power maintained a middle class that could act as a buffer between the masses, he claims. When he was writing this album, in the summer of 2011, during the Arab Spring, Ali was dreaming of something happening in the West, but without all the violence. Then Occupy happened. Clearly, Ali is a man who is aware – spiritually, mentally, politically – of what is happening in the world around him.

“Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color” is Brother Ali’s fifth album, and was released by Rhymesayers on September 18th. 2012.

Dan McPeake's radio show, Endeavours, airs Mondays on CJSF 90.1fm Burnaby and the web at cjsf.ca. It also airs on CHSR 97.9 in a one week delay.
You can also listen on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/293550751031/

You can follow him on twitter @EndeavoursRadio

 

 
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