Showing posts with label brother ali. Show all posts
Showing posts with label brother ali. Show all posts

Thursday, November 7, 2019

video review: 'secrets & escapes' by brother ali

Ugh, I really did want to love this... but it happens? Anyway, Homeboy Sandman is up next and I'm more excited about that one, so stay tuned!

album review: 'secrets & escapes' by brother ali

Well, this was well-timed for me - and came right the hell out of nowhere too! In the middle of when I was planning to make a week focusing on underground hip-hop, we get a surprise release - and from Brother Ali and Evidence of all people!

So let me back up - I first reviewed Brother Ali in 2017 for a project I was a little more lukewarm on than I'd prefer after a lengthy deep dive into his back catalog, which may not have been the best way to engage with that album not just because it forced him into comparison with some truly stellar work across the mid-2000s, but that it also remained remarkably solid throughout that crazy year, and the burst of aspirational optimism felt more grounded and human in this time than many other MCs in this lane. But I'll freely admit that he did slip a bit off my radar - as did Evidence, but that was more because he went quiet and I had the suspicion something was up, I just couldn't pin down what. And yet out of nowhere, Brother Ali dropped a short surprise release with the sort of features list that would make any underground hip-hop fan salivate: Pharoahe Monch, Talib Kweli, Evidence himself, all spit over a flurry of samples run through a 2-track compressor and utterly unconcerned with anyone's schedule or attention. Which is a luxury when you're underground stalwarts with diehard fanbases, but I sure as hell am not going to complain about the timing, so what did we get on Secrets & Escapes?

Monday, May 29, 2017

video review: 'all the beauty in this whole life' by brother ali

Well, this happened... I'm honestly not sure how the response is going to be to this, but we'll see... anyway, it's undoubtedly going to be better than what's up next, so stay tuned!

album review: 'all the beauty in this whole life' by brother ali

Oh, I've been looking forward to this one - because sometimes when you listen through an extended backlog in preparation for a review, it can be strenuous or exasperating or just plain exhausting even if there was a lot of quality in just huge volumes... whereas in this case, it was fun.

So yeah, Brother Ali - I've been hearing praise for this guy for years now, as a populist political MC hailing from Minnesota who has the wit and insight to back it up and who also has the skills of a battle rapper. And what initially caught my attention were the comparisons to Sage Francis, in terms of his origin and initially a fair amount of his content in balancing the intensely personal with fearsome skills - hell, they even battled once. But their trajectories broke in very different directions, with Brother Ali's material shifting to a much more political direction working alongside Atmosphere producer Ant - and this is the political hip-hop I like to hear. It's nuanced and detailed with a lot of great storytelling and framing, but it has the passion and populism to keep it grounded and human, and when you pair it with remarkably solid groove and punch, it leads to relentlessly enjoyable records with rare slip-ups - there's no serious dud in his discography.

Granted, he hasn't always worked with Ant - he switched things up for Jake One on 2012's Mourning In America And Living In Color, which was pretty damn solid - but it has been five years since Brother Ali put out a full-length solo project, and if I was looking for a political rapper to speak definitively on our current situation, I'm not sure I could ask for many more better candidates, and a reunion with Ant could only be a good thing, his production work was easily the best thing about that most recent Atmosphere project I covered on vacation last year. So what does Brother Ali have to say on All The Beauty In This Whole Life?