:: Brother Ali :: Fox Theatre :: March 6 :: :: Bluebird Theatre :: March 7 ::
By Lisa Oshlo
Hip-hop needs more of the likes of Brother Ali. With his feet on the ground and his spirit sky high, this devout Muslim channels his beliefs into some powerful lyrics and very big beats. As an albino, he has a hard time flying under the radar in life, but manages to do so in the hip-hop world. Nobody familiar with his music would be surprised if it didn’t stay that way for long.
Ali (born Jason Newman) honed his emcee skills on the playground, thereby empowering himself in the face of his physical adversities. He became inspired by rap in the late ’80s, a period that is often referred to as “the golden age of hip-hop.” The Marquee caught up with Ali in his native Minneapolis, where he elaborated on this:
“Something happened in the late ’80s, where there was this new generation of emcees that were really educated, and who were really saying something relevant to the time. It used to be the exception, where somebody would really be talking about what was going on in the community, as opposed to just partying. And then it really became the rule for a little while. So, simultaneously, the actual art of the storytelling and cadence and flow and vocabulary took a huge jump, but then also the substance. And musically, they went from the old drum machines to really perfecting the art of sampling. All of that just took a huge jump at the same time. That’s when I realized, that this is what I am,” Ali said.
It was back in 2000 that Brother Ali first joined Minneapolis powerhouse Rhymesayers Entertainment with his self-produced demo, Rites of Passage. In 2003 he released his critically acclaimed debut album, Shadows on the Sun, thereby taking the world of underground hip-hop by storm.
In 2004 he continued to build momentum with the release of The Champion EP. However, in the years that followed, Ali endured his own personal strife. He saw the demise of a ten-year marriage and found himself homeless while fighting for custody of his son. Many wondered if he could possibly match the strength of his previous work, but it turns out Ali’s got much more to say and knows just the right way to say it. Critics and fans agree that 2007’s The Undisputed Truth rivals his genius debut.
Some portion of this is undoubtedly due to producer Anthony Davis (a.k.a. “ANT”) of Atmosphere. Collaborating with Brother Ali for the third time, ANT knows the perfect beats behind Ali’s powerful voice and unique flow. The result is greater than its (undeniably brilliant) parts.
“I credit my brother ANT a lot, because he created a musical bed that helped me find the moods for different [songs],” said Ali. “It’s a combination of how talented and diverse and prolific he is as a producer. He works with so many different types of music — blues, reggae, rock, bad ’80s music … there’s not a type of music that he doesn’t touch. So he’s able to bring out different moods in me. And we’re also very close friends, so he tries to take all the different parts of my personality and bring them out through music.”
:: Brother Ali ::
:: Fox Theatre :: March 6 ::
:: Bluebird Theatre :: March 7 ::
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