No disrespect to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but the city of 8,600 is hardly known as a destination for Hip Hop heads—or so it would appear. But the popular snowbording and skiing destination may now be responsible for Hip Hop’s YouTube moment of 2010, after Brother Ali and Pop sensation Justin Timberlake had a freestyle and beatbox exchange onstage.
“Our type of music is really supported in the skateboarding and snowboarding community,” says Brother Ali. A few members of the Rhymesayers crew hit Jackson Hole in January to perform at a party for Jackson Hole Snowboarder magazine. After being encouraged to check out the set by Brother Ali and BK-One, Timberlake appeared onstage, and temporarily fell victim to the B-Boy code of ethics during a brief misunderstanding.
“I notice there’s a dude with his back to me,” Brother Ali recalled. “He’s in a flannel shirt, with a hat on and glasses with his back to me, and he’s beatboxing…I walk up to him, as I’m rhyming, and I snatch his mic like, ‘Get the fuck off the stage!’”
Timberlake, a noted Hip Hop fan who has worked with Three-6 Mafia and The Neptunes, nearly fell victim to both Ali’s inability to recognize him and the same B-Boy code of ethics that got PM Dawn’s Prince Be tossed off of a stage by KRS-One. After an apology, Ali explained being albino and legally blind, and expressed being a genuine a fan of Timberlake’s music.
“I’m an emcee,” Brother Ali added. “I come from a time when emcees were really emcees. “I come from getting into a fight over the microphone. I come from knocking you out and stealing your records time. I come from ‘Why are you the only white dude in this room?’ time.”
After explaining all three points to Timberlake, both artists re-emerged onstage for a freestyle session, which featured Ali on the microphone and Timberlake beatboxing.
“All the things I’m thinking of things to say about him in my freestyle without being offensive,” says Ali. “Mentioning ‘Cry Me A River’ or ‘The Mickey Mouse Club’ were all things that are genuine compliments, but in that context might seem like a diss.”
The apprehension led to what Brother Ali calls, “fifteen minutes of the most bullshit freestyle that I’ve ever done in my life.” Either way, the reaction from the crowd would seem to contradict his opinion. And while Jackson Hole may never be considered the hotbed of Hip Hop, BK-One, Justin Timberlake and Brother Ali may have made a little bit of Hip Hop history that night.