Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color

by Brother Ali

I admire Brother Ali in a way that I don't any other rapper.  He has a truthfulness to him that bars him from fronting or exaggerating on his songs, which are always intensely personal.

When other rappers talk about themselves, there is often a question about whether or not they are really speaking truth.  I'm not referring to the mainstream rappers - we know they're full of crap - but even of artists like POS and Slug (keeping with the Minneapolis theme for a minute), who also rap from the heart, but have created a bit of a persona for themselves (okay, maybe not Stef; he's probably on the same level as Ali, but anyway).  Brother Ali speaks straight from his soul, and uses his music to continually open and re-examine old wounds, for the betterment of us all.

Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, his excellent new album, opens with 'Letter to my Countrymen', a plea for increased political action and thought among the masses.  This piece ends with a message from Cornel West, which is always nice.

On 'Stop the Press', Ali gives us the musical equivalent of a Christmas card letter, updating everyone on everything that's happened in his life since his last album, including the loss of his father to suicide, and the problems he's had motivating himself to write and record.  It's a perfect example of how Ali works - a song that exposes great woe, but which remains ultimately triumphant and upbeat.

When I heard that Ali wasn't going to be working with Ant, his long-time producer, for this album, I was worried that it wouldn't hold up well with the rest of his catalogue, but Jake One has figured out what Ali works best with, and provided it to him on almost every track.  This album is as good as, or better than, any that Ali has finished before.

No comments: