Album Review: Brother Ali, Us


20090727-bali It seems as though everything that Brother Ali touches turns to gold. Everything that this Twin Cities native has put out has been well above par. Earlier this year he dropped The Truth is Here EP, which was 9 straight tracks of sheer brilliance, and now he drops Us into the hands of the people. Much like everyone else is saying, I will agree that this is one of the best albums of this year. It has everything you’ve come to expect from a Brother Ali album: powerful production from Ant and legendary lyrics from Brother Ali. Ali is quickly on his way to becoming a legendary emcee, and Us is yet another nail in the pivotal coffin of truth. Brother Ali’s story telling abilities come alive like a beast in hibernation, and the outcome is simply stunning.

Ant’s beats on this album make for one of the best production showings of the entire year. Every soul slathered, funk filled, bone breaking beat on this album is something to talk about. If this album makes one thing certain, it’s that Ant is one of the premier producers of our time. He shapes and shifts his beats so well for Brother Ali that you would think Ant is Don King and Ali is Mike Tyson. The balance of live instrumentation and samples on this album is perfect, and Ant creates a signature sound that he is only capable of.

The album starts off with Chuck D preaching to the listeners over Ant’s beautiful uplifting gospel beat on “Brothers & Sisters”. Chuck hands over the mic to Ali as he blasts into space over Ant’s heavenly horns, quick paced bass lines and gritty guitar loops on the track “Street Preacher”. Ant’s laid back horns pave a perfect backdrop for Ali to prove that he’s still one of the most introspective emcees on the track “Crown Jewel”. Ali spits, “I glide across the surface with my head held high/shoulders pushed back I’m convinced I’ll never die/got a squint to my eye like I can’t take the world in/too much beauty to behold by one person/wear the sky around my shoulder like a tailor made cloak/created decorated with my never fading hopes”.

Ant’s funk filled guitar loops and spacey synth notes are sure to leave you dancing out of your skin on the track “Fresh Air”, and Ali joyfully tells you about the triumphs in his life. The track “Tight Rope” is one of the sure highlights on the album. Ant’s epic piano keys and high pitched guitar riffs create a perfect road for Ali to travel down as he tells the story of 3 different people’s lives with vivid detail (A Somalian Immigrant, a gay teenager with a Priest as a father and a teenage male born in a broken home). Ali tells a metaphor driven story of slavery on the track “Breakin’ Dawn” over Ant’s Eastern Sitar influenced beat, “Good Lord, I’ve been waitin’ so long/for ya’ll to come out here and take me in your home/the world’s so cold with no place to belong…”, “…He stepped inside and to his surprise/it was so damn fly he can’t believe his eyes/ate and he drank and he felt satisfied/til he sat by the window and he glanced outside/loved ones outside workin/his eyes got full and his stomach start hurtin”.

Brother Ali returns to his battle stance amidst Ant’s slow moving guitar chords an down-tempo bass lines on the track “Bad Mufucker Pt. II”, and it’s made perfectly clear that you definitely don’t want to fuck with Ali. On one of my favorite tracks, “Best@It”, Brother Ali brings along the Philly Freezer and the always potent Joell Ortiz. Joell spits some serious bars, “…ain’t a hood to tough, ain’t a block to gutter/these rappers are startin’ to look like them pork chops you smother/slide me a fork, damn right I eat pork/I’m sick, I dine on swine flu with every thought/every track I rhyme to develops a heavy cough/til’ it’s fully blown and turns into a smelly corpse”.

My favorite track on this album, by far, is the track “Games”. Ant throws down one of the hardest heavy hitting beats you will ever hear in your life, full of melodic organ keys and cranium cracking drums. Ali spits a harrowing narrative of trying to make ends meet in everyday life that is sure to move you in every aspect. He spits one of my favorite rhymes I’ve heard in a long time, “…Stare at our kids they need a paradigm shift/the paradox is that parents aren’t shit/Why you got cable?/Your life is not stable/light’s not paid for, Nike’s on lay-a-way though/it’s like we wanna look good while we drownin’/should grab a paddle and scrap our way out”.

There isn’t much that I can say that hasn’t already been stated. This album is absolutely incredible. Ant’s production, to me, is the sure highlight of the album. He knows how to make beats that will make you keep craving for more, but at the same time they fit Ali’s delivery so fucking well. Brother Ali comes out swinging on this album like Floyd Mayweather, and it’s very apparent that he’s more comfortable on the microphone than he’s ever been. Brother Ali & Rhymesayers have done it again. Us is hands down, one of the top albums of the year.

9.5 Preacher Lessons out of 10

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