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Brother Ali, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color

It’s been three years since Brother Ali delivered his last LP and the Minneapolis rapper has returned just in the nick of time. His politically-driven fifth album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, is yet another exposé of his life journeys—even more so than his last two lauded releases, 2009′s Us and 2007′s The Undisputed Truth.

The album is guided by socio-political undertones, but rather than just trying to drop knowledge, the underground vet doesn’t hesitate to unveil back-end anecdotes and personal tragedy. The revelations surface throughout, but are most apparent on cuts like “Stop The Press,” where he painstakingly rhymes, “Got a phone call on the fourth of July/My dad died, he committed suicide.” Later, the Rhymesayers talent addresses poverty without concentrating on race (“Only Life I Know”) and lampoons rap’s fixation with illegal trades by figuratively disclosing a series of odd jobs he partook in—as if they were drug dealing and pimping (“Need a Knot”). On “Mourning In America,” BA castigates America’s violent tendency, rapping, “When innocent people perish/It’s a very thin line between a soldier and a terrorist.” Moments like this represent his ability to strikes the ever-elusive balance of creating meaningful, thought-provoking and sharply opinionated music without coming off self-righteous. It’s his use of personal experience that levels Ali with the listener—he’s just as confused, goes through just as many personal and professional tribulations, and is just as eager to find a better day.

Jake One helms all 14 tracks, and the Seattle native’s distinguished soul production provides the necessary thump throughout, proving that one-producer-one-MC formula works superbly for this juncture. On “Say Amen,” Brother Ali separates himself from underground MC stereotypes: “I ain’t bitter or backpacker or conscious/I just want y’all the fuck out my ear with that nonsense.” No nonsense, here. —Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho)

  • Banger Boys

    Incredible album. Incredible MC.

  • Jon Dog

    This one is XXL worthy for sure. Love this album. Nice breath of fresh air. The game needs more emcee’s and less rappers.

  • JoshF

    Do the reviewers really believe this album has less originality than “Cruel Summer?” Highly doubt it.

  • Nino

    The reviewer certainly didn’t listen to the whole Album!

  • grips

    You gave this less originality than Big Sean?? That’s exactly why nobody trusts your reviews. This was XXL for sure.

  • alimuh007

    this album is a complete body of work of inspiration and sincerity that deserves the highest rating possible but as long as the 2 chains of the industry receive praise this will never happen