Friday, September 28, 2012

Brother Ali – Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color (2012) – Review

Review: Brother Ali is one of the great independent hip hop artists. His fifth studio album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, comes on the heels of his good EP The Bite Marked Heart and the fantastic album Us.

Ali is very political in his rhymes (being an activist when he is not touring), but his lyrics come from a place of hope, speaking to what he imagines a better America could be like while being frustrated with the way things are now. He is not just negatively taking shots at easy targets. He addresses the real life that he faces every day. Ali is not making millions (probably not even hundreds of thousands) from his music career, which means when he talks about the hard life he faces he is speaking from a place of honesty, making him and his lyrics very relatable and poignant. He is among hip hops best storytellers, making light of some of the inequities he sees in his life. Again, he wants a better tomorrow which is what makes this album so powerful instead of merely just angry venting (which he does on a few tracks).

Musically, the album is produced completely by Jake One, who provides great beats for Ali. Jake One’s style compliments Ali’s well (though, I do miss his great chemistry with his normal producing partner Ant).

Brother Ali is far from a commercial artist. The content and themes of his work, his religion (Muslim) and his look (he is an albino) all work against him in terms of being relevant in popular music (radio play, TV appearances, and so on). But, he tours like crazy to get his music out. Fans of the ‘real’ hip hop sound and lyrics that actually mean something will find a great artist in Ali. This album is not flashy, but it is very good. 4/5

Essential Tracks:
1)      Only Life I Know – Produced by Jake One
2)      Letter to My Countrymen – Produced by Jake One, featuring Dr. Cornel West
3)      Won More Hit – Produced by Jake One

Available on CD and Digital Download

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