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Brother Ali – Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color

on September 17, 2012, 7:58am
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Brother Ali has fire in his soul, and his main target is the current state of our country. He opens Mourning America and Dreaming In Color with gloves off, laying out his thesis on “Letter to My Countrymen”: “I used to think I hated this place/ couldn’t wait to tell the president straight to his face/ but lately I’ve changed/ nowadays I embrace it all/ beautiful ideals and amazing flaws/ gotta care enough to give a testament about the deeply depressing mess we’re in.” Like those lines, the album itself is both a celebration and a condemnation of the United States of America.

On “Work Everyday”, Ali speaks to unemployment and poverty. “Greed can never leave well enough alone/ they keep on squeezin’ till we bleed from every bone,” he raps while the backing vocals chant, “Got to work everyday.” Ali mines material from his days as a drug dealer on “Need a Knot” to shed light on the inner city drug problem. “Mourning in America” sees him at his angriest while railing against war, violence, and murder. He spits the chorus with venom: “Murder murder/ kill kill kill/ harm or heal, destroy or rebuild/ shots still ring out and blood still spills.” Next to some of the more relaxed flows on the album, his words have even greater effect.

Ali backs his vitriol and vigor with ’70s R&B soul-style beats and a flow that expresses his emotion without being guttural or angry. He raps not like a hard-ass with a chip on his shoulder, but like a prophet on a soapbox. He speaks from the street where these problems are faced, not from behind some lectern. It’s genuine, not to mention intelligent. He bookends the album with “Singing This Song” — which includes a snippet from his speech at a Trayvon Martin justice rally — a love note to all the peaceful voices, silenced or otherwise, that tried to make this fucked up country a little more tolerable. Ali adds his name to that list with this album, and here’s hoping people stand up and take notice.

Essential Tracks: “Mourning in America”, “Need A Knot”

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