Posts Tagged ‘brother ali’

I don’t subscribe to any particular theory on artistic integrity, irregardless of the medium…after all everyone’s got to paid sometime right? All this nonsense about “oh that? That’s not art” is purely subjective; each of us has an imaginary line that blurs out any artist who steps over it. I think Herzog is one of the greatest directors ever…I also think that modern R&B sucks. I’m neither right nor wrong; just an opinion that makes it obvious that I let my definition of art govern my discovery of more, as do you. In fact even similarities in taste doesn’t add an ounce of credibility to whatever it is we admire; it just means that we are people who have common aesthetical grounds and who prioritize art above, let’s say, dental insurance or casual ogling at bus stops, and hence it is only natural that we feel let down when it doesn’t serve its purpose for us.

There isn’t any universal algorithm that can determine the purity of art. Once again it’s just in our heads. Art’s the most magnanimous whore ever…it can be as pure or as ugly as we want it to be. So if you hate any aspect of any form of art, feel free to express it, but don’t go overboard and completely disassociate the medium or genre from all credibility (techno music and James Cameron’s films are exceptions because I know people who can scientifically prove that both literally cause the brain to temporarily malfunction). Of course, if you only express hatred towards art because you don’t understand why some people have to hate their jobs for a living while others get to sing, dance and act for theirs, well, tough shit, mate…life’s unfair, get yourself some tissues and call the suicide hotline.

(If self-indulgent, long-ass soliloquies don’t stop people from asking shit like why I listen to rap or why I watch horror films, I don’t know what will.)

On to some hip hop then…

Brother Ali’s Us has been hailed by many as the one of the best hip-hop albums of 2009. The collective consciousness hasn’t fucked up this time around, folks. It’s true. The raging intensity which gave his vocals a cartoonish tweak on the 2007 Undisputed Truth album is gone; instead we are treated to a more restrained MC who knows when to take it down a notch to let the music shine. The title song exemplifies this evolution, with producer Ant letting frenzied strings dive headfirst into those gorgeous handclaps as Brother Ali waxes lyrical “the worlds getting too small to stand in one place, it’s like we’re roommates just sharing a space, can’t separate and still carry the weight, gotta heal get away from the fear and the hate.” Stupid vegan hippies and tree-hugging journalists give peace a bad name; Brother Ali and his music sing glorious hymns in its praise. Give your money some real use and buy this man’s album.


Daniel Dumile dabbles in schizophrenia for a living. Only WWE wrestlers of the 80s have had more monikers than this guy. The rest of the world puts up with his identity crisis because the man is a fantastic musician. No matter who he is in the studio – MF Doom, Dr Octagon,  Zev Love X, Metal Fingers, King Geedorah or Viktor Vaughn – he is almost never off the mark when it comes to crafting absurdly brilliant rap music. I’ll come back to the rest later, for now I’ll start with his MF Doom persona.  From the twisted sounds of his debut Operation Doomsday to the 2005’s hilariously conceptual Mm..Food, he’s become crazier and consequently more innovative with each album. Despite the awesomeness that were the 2003 release – Vaudeville Villain – and the more recent Born Like This album, for me, Mm..Food showcases Dumile in his finest hour. He references absurdist food metaphors and samples music from old episodes of Fantastic Four, and Spiderman. He even ropes in obscure Zappa songs for a little help on Beef Rapp. Don’t fight it, folks…and don’t you dare try understanding it.


Fashawn’s one of the new kids on the block. A young MC who doesn’t believe in ripping words to shreds over grinding beats. He’s one of those who caress words gently and lets the music flirt with Fifties jazz and Seventies soul. With Exile handling the production duties on his debut Boy Meets World, word’s out that Fashawn is a name you’re going to be hearing a lot. Maybe not on Billboard charts or American Idol finales, but certainly from the lips of people who appreciate hip-hop beyond the gangsta manifesto. Ecology and the title track are my favourites of the lot, with one effortlessly riding on a haunting sample and the other sampling the Graduation song for nearly ten minutes, not once sounding redundant. How long must I wait for another Blu and Exile album (seriously, it’s been 3 years, guys)? More than patience, more than perseverance, give me rappers like Fashawn.


If I had been introduced to artists like Juggaknots during the late Nineties I wouldn’t have wasted precious pocket money on those stupid Bad Boy records. I can’t believe their Clear Blue Skies album was released in 1996 and kids who started rapping post millennium weren’t influenced by it. I guess Biggie and Tupac screwed hip hop by getting out early, leaving the next two generations of rappers falsely correlating braggadocio with dollars earned from album sales. Biggie and Pac weren’t hardcore because they were popular, they actually were. Juggaknots is more like De La Soul with all the comedy edited out. Smooth, groovy and mellow enough to give you time to appreciate it fully. The title track Clear Blue Skies is just plain fantastic. The words, the music, the production…everything. If you still think you are getting more value for your time/money with cretin like 50 Cents and Akon, go and get yourself a haircut, and hope to God he misses and takes out your ears.


Brother Ali – Intro (with Chuck D), Us

MF Doom – Beef Rapp, Potholderz

Fashawn – Ecology, Boys Meets World

Juggaknots – Clear Blue Skies

Blu and Exile – Soul Amazin’


Brother Ali – Us

MF Doom – Mm..Food

Fashawn – Boy Meets World

Juggaknots – Clear Blue Skies


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The golden era of hip-hop officially began during the late Eighties with artists such as KRS-One, Rakim, Mos Def, Gangstarr and A Tribe Called Quest discussing afrocentrism and contemplating the need for anti-Aryan militant warfare; all the while, being backed by pounding bass beats and eclectic turntablism. Its tenure was short-lived as rappers from Death Row Records laid to waste the golden age with their “guns ganja and gangsta” blueprint. Even as aging MCs continued releasing albums and mixtapes, it was evident that as far as the mainstream was concerned, if Dre or Puffy didn’t produce it, well…it wasn’t shit.

During the late-Nineties even as gangster rap was losing creative momentum and gaining notoriety, people were still reluctant to fully accept the golden age. Cue for bands like Outkast and Black-Eyed Peas and of course, the incorrigible Akon family, to grab the microphone and take it straight to the dance floor, and in the minds of hip hop purists, to hell. I am certainly no purist, after all Vanilla Ice and Fresh Prince initiated me to this genre of music. But it confuses me to no extent that the golden age never gained it’s rightful status as the official voice of the Africa American culture. 

This sub-genre had all the right ingredients – smooth beats with extra cheese, reformist poetry, and an unparalleled flow. I’d sooner see pigs fly than hear 50 Cents rhyme a verse better than Talib Kweli or Lil’ Jon drop a beat that can even begin to match anything that DJ Premier can spin out, even if he suffered from paraplegia. But for some odd reason, it just wasn’t meant to be. Notwithstanding this apparent glitch in hip-hop’s evolution, I strongly urge you not to lose out on over a decade of great music…that would be akin to tripping on The White Stripes while being oblivious to what The B-52s were once capable of.

Brother Ali is a devout Muslim and a fantastic rapper. His smooth-as-velvet-rain rhymes and laidback beats can tear the roof off clubs and double up as a background score for coffee and conversation. This sort of music isn’t dependent on the environment, but rather on the mind and for the many moods it goes through. “Rain Water” is one of the best hip-hop songs I have heard in a really long time. Inspired stuff that Chicken Soup For The Soul wishes it was made of. Not since I heard Kweli’s “The Truth”, have I felt this way about the genre.

Is life so obscene that death’s more serene / Or was an old author tryin to write his own closing scene / Nothing stings like knowing that the woman that gave me this life /Is being eaten from the inside / I thought we never make shit right

I feel a bit awkward understanding what this song is about. I’m a 26-year-old South Indian, born in Chennai and raised by television and radio. Despite the financial problems we once faced, I only have fond memories of poverty and a simpler life. And neither do I belong to an oppressed race nor do I fret over my mom having a coke addiction. Logically, I shouldn’t even be on the same plane of consciousness as an albino Islamic rapper who has fought through oppression and poverty. But it feels like I am. I guess sometimes music transcends the artist’s intention to say something and starts paying attention to how the audience wants to listen to it. Brother Ali, take a bow.


Brother Ali’s Rain Water on Youtube


Brother Ali – Rain Water (live)

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