Over the past decade, Brother Ali has become one of independent hip-hop’s greatest success stories. The Minneapolis, Minnesota native explains how being signed to Rhymesayers Entertainment, staying on the indie grind and the hard work of others has helped him develop a career as an MC.
“There’s a big difference between artists who have a big machine behind them,” he told The Come Up Show. “They go to great lengths to make sure certain songs are played on the radio X amount of times a week. More and more of us are doing it the way that we’re doing it, which is independent. Our touring and our live show and just us, who we are, we are our marketing department. It’s a beautiful thing to know that the success we achieve is because the people carried us to that.”
He continued by praising the four-person staff at Rhymesayers, as well as promoters and media, for helping to build his movement. “We do have our independent label, Rhymesayers. The people there are amazing, but it’s four people for 25 artists. You got four people who really make that label work. And then whatever interns that they have, whatever other people that are around,” he said. “But for the most part, it’s a really small group of people and then we have local independent promoters like we have tonight.”
With his success as a rapper, Ali reflected on times when he had to work three jobs to make ends meet.
“The reality is that I haven’t worked for anybody else since 2002. I come from working two or three jobs at a time. There’s times that I’ve had three jobs. I come from working two jobs and still starving, still not being able to pay all my bills and all this kind of stuff,” he continued. “That’s what I come from. To go from working for someone else for 12, 14, 16 hours a day and then falling asleep on the bus to the next job and then hoping to wake up on time to get off of the bus at the right place to go to the next job, that’s the best sleep that I would get. Just year after year of living like that. And then for the music that I love to do, being the thing that actually makes me a comfortable person, is ridiculous.”