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)