The process of hip-hop–the making of records and singing of songs–is all about finding a voice. Some rappers struggle to make their mark, floundering in the previous generation’s sounds or in other people’s expectations.
Skip the lies, sing the truth
The process of hip-hop–the making of records and singing of songs–is all about finding a voice. Some rappers struggle to make their mark, floundering in the previous generation’s sounds or in other people’s expectations. Others come out of the gate firing, naturally standing apart from the thousands of others who can rhyme.
The most interesting artists, though, are those who change and grow over time. Minneapolis’ MC Brother Ali is one such artist. His persona is very much based in the traditions of hip-hop.
The bragger, the thief and the tough guy all make appearances, but the introspective loner and unsure father have their place as well. Ali’s voice–the vital organ of any MC’s arsenal–has developed from a hesitant (if interesting) variant, into a complete and powerful presence. He talks about the truth and he means it.
On Ali’s newest album, the unequivocally titled The Undisputed Truth, the rapper is at his absolute best. Songs deal with subject matter ranging from divorce (Ali recently broke up with his wife of many years) to politics and religion (he’s Muslim).
Ali truly shines during the songs proclaiming his greatness. It works because he backs it up with some truly great rhymes. His flow is nimble and quick, clever but not trite or overly cerebral.
It helps that the production from Atmosphere’s Ant, another Minny product, is always spot on. It’s simultaneously danceable and interesting, not simple, but not lacking impact. It will get your head nodding and your face smiling.
Along with the rest of the Rhymesayers crew, Brother Ali has helped bring “indie” hip-hop to the masses. There is more to hip-hop than bitches and hos. It has always been a medium of thought and true creativity, and Brother Ali is a continuation of that tradition.
Live, Ali likes to throw parties. Seriously. Most people have “shows.” Not Ali. He brings something that many live hip-hop acts lack–really exacting performances. His rhymes in the live setting are just as tight and quick as they are on record.
There is no disappointment because his performances showcase a truly skilled musician, not to mention the fact that they are a lot of fun, even for non-“hip-hop heads.”
After many years of honing his craft and sharpening his rhymes, Ali is now at the top of his game. His records and live show are on-point and undeniable and his persona unshakeable. He is the best parts of hip-hop personified. He’s also probably the only albino rapper you will ever see.
Brother AliWith the Boom Bap ProjectHawthorne TheaterTonight, 9 p.m., $12