I first met Brother Ali at the Southern California Paid Dues festival, which is where I also first saw him perform live. He did a song called “Stop the Press,” which is also featured on the rapper’s new full-length, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color. It’s a touching, autobiographical track, rapped over some some funky soul samples. At one pivotal point, Brother Ali mentions how on the 4th of July, he received the tragic news his dad had taken his own life. “I should have been there for him,” he admits. It’s the kind of moment that stops every man in his tracks. It also stops every listener in his/her tracks because it’s so touching and sad.
You could say Brother Ali sighs more than raps. Sure, he can play the vocal heavy the way he does during “Mourning in America.” However, more often than not this talented performer takes the persona of one that is nearly overwhelmed by the big stuff of life, which consistently comes out in his exasperated voice. This persona is a wonderful contrast to so many other rappers that are more intent upon impressing than expressing. They used to call Public Enemy the CNN of the African American community, and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to suggest Brother Ali has taken up that torch and run with it.
There’s so much to digest with Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color. It’s a little like Russian novel, where you can only take it at bite sized morsels because it is too much for any one sitting. It is appropriate that Dr. Cornel West makes a guest appearance on Brother Ali’s album because this man is a thinker — not just a rapper.
It’s so refreshing to find a rapper more obsessed with making the truth sing, than making it rain at a club. Brother Ali is a reflection of our current troubled times. He’s not trying to get all eyes on him; he’d much rather make his listeners think deeper about the world around them.
Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color cannot be recommended highly enough. Even if you’re not a hip hop fanatic, you just may still find yourself getting a little fanatical about Brother Ali.