There are not many truths in this world that are undisputed, but if anyone
can make you into a subscriber of their brand of unquestionable reality, it is Rhymesayers'
Brother Ali. The Minnesota native went from obscurity to relative
stardom with 2003's instant classic Shadows on the Sun (first called
such by yours truly right here).
Ali proved to be an absolutely indomitable beast, bringing
soul bearing narratives and jaw dropping battle raps in a way that can only be
described by the phrase "something to behold." In the years since his seminal Rhymesayers
debut the Brother has sharpened his teeth with 04's golden Champion
EP and an extensive touring schedule that left stunned onlookers
The Undisputed Truth comes at a
pivotal moment for Hip Hop, as honest music is becoming as rare as a snowless
winter in Minneapolis. Just as critical, in this day and age of manufactured,
one-dimensional rappers with the depth of a cardboard cutout, Brother Ali is the genuine article in
every sense of the term. With a few more years of strife on his resume, Ali has taken his already introspective
variety of music and made one of the more personal and moving albums that Hip Hop
has ever seen. After a painful divorce and gaining the custody of his only son,
he makes you feel every emotion that he is trying to convey like you were right
there with him through it all. Over a melancholy beat lead by a regretful
whistle, Ali pens a letter on "Walking
Away" to his ex wife that you'd feel even if you were bathing in Novocain: "fresh out of forced tears, kisses and
hugs/you about to lose the company your misery loves/ain't never did nothin'
but try and kill your disease/at least help the symptoms, instead you infected
me/I'm not the kind of man to draw a line in the sand/if you gotta draw at all
then its time for your to scram." The crazy thing is he only ups the ante
on the following song ("Faheem"), as he turns his speech to his son: "I just pray you don't remember us sleeping
on the floor/and me cleaning mouse droppings outta your toys/it took a lot of
hard for us to get where we at/and young man we ain't quittin' at that."
You've never felt a man's pride as much as you do on this song. The sum of
their parts is put into final perspective as he closes out the album with "Ear
To Ear," which is the proverbial hero's walk into the sunset.
We're getting ahead of ourselves though, as there are 12 dope songs that
precede these. The LP kicks off with a definitive Ali track in "Watcha Got." As he tends to on stage, Ali towers over the competition here
with vicious battle raps and once-in-a-lifetime presence. It's not so much that
you're listening to him rap, it's more like he has you pinned against the wall
with a hand around your throat as he launches his tirade. He raps with the kind
of ferocity that will leave you wide-eyed and breathless, in very much the same
way that a young Ice Cube did. The
funny thing is, his presence and delivery still take a back seat to his words;
as his manifesto and lead single "Truth Is" displays. As he demands more truth
over Ant's slick island vibe, you'll
be left rewinding the track to catch some more of that truth: "people need more freedom/children need to
hear more truth when y'all teachin/damn I wanna hear a plan from the dude
preachin/got new seeds with true needs and who's leadin?/I truly believe every
word I ever uttered on a drum break/ right or wrong, life go on, but it wasn't
nothin fake/I demand you start listening to the crowd/if not, we gon' burn this
bitch to the ground/gimme more!"
The lessons continue throughout the album; "Freedom Ain't Free" sees him
destroying and rebuilding himself whenever necessary ("If I don't like my life I gut it and rebuild it/fuck it, keep nothing
but God and my children/I kill the devil wherever he resides/even if he hidin'
in me he got to die"); here is a brilliant extended metaphor describing a
relationship with him as an old house ("it's
not much but all of its yours/take great caution if you wanna explore/watch
your head when you openin' the doors/and always remember that the choice was
yours"); and Uncle Sam Goddamn has Ali's swagger at it's finest as he indicts
the U.S. of A. over Ant's bluesy production ("smoke and mirrors, stripes and
stars/goin' for the cross in the name of god/bloodshed, genocide, rape and
fraud/written into the pages of the law, good lawd").
All this talk of Ali and I've
barely mentioned Ant's incredible
wall-to-wall production, all of which manages to capture and compliment the Big Bad Brother (surely no easy feat).
Given the meaning and severity of his rhymes, and just his talent in general,
it would criminal if his producer(s) couldn't keep up with him and do his words
the justice they so richly deserve. Thankfully, Ant does just that and the result is yet another album from Brother Ali that is impossible to rate
anything less than a 5. Listen to this album and convince me there is a better artist
on this planet - it doesn't matter if he isn't on the radio or selling
millions. The music speaks for itself, and this is the truth...
"I never said I had a business mind, I
just don't believe quittin' time exists/ain't no finish line to this, you gotta
gimme mine, I really shine, my given time is this/live and die with the grind,
driven by the fist/where do you place my name if I never played ya game?/we
don't race the same, I don't run inside no painting lane/plus y'all pace is
strange, ya either stop or your sprint/run when its sunny and hide if it change
to rain/I wouldn't be half the Ali that I am/if I slowed up and tried to bleed
in with these people fam/I'm every bit as unconcerned as they are
unprepared/market flooded, needless to say I wasn't scared/let's all drop the
same day I don't fuckin' care/put listenin' stations in the store and let the
public hear/better yet let's have an in store performance/make it oranges to
oranges, me toe off on your endurance/then we'll shoot the shit with our
supporters/and see how many more discs of yours the indy stores order/see you
already know I out rap'em, on the low we out-work, out-think and out-class'em"