Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Album Review: Brother Ali - Us

Brother Ali has come to symbolize what many look for in today’s MC. An insightful writer, Ali couples pinpoint wordplay and detailed narrative with a knack for tugging at your heartstrings with introspective subject matter. Combine that with a flow that cannot be denied and a voice that you can feel in your chest, and you have the makings of one talented wordsmith. Oh yeah, he can also rock a party with the best of them. After all, you can’t always be serious, right? “US” is Ali’s third full-length installment, and he continues to showcase his versatility throughout.


The first two tracks set the tone for the album. The first is an intro entitled “Brothers & Sisters,” as a minister (Chuck D?), amidst the soulful vocals of a church choir, laments about the despair of the world and introduces Ali as a shining beacon of hope. The second is aptly titled “The Preacher,” and Ali comes out in full force. The beat is a blend of up-tempo drums, distorted guitar, and perfectly-placed horns that begs you to turn up the volume as loud as you can.

Following shortly is “The Travelers,” one of the best songs I've heard this year. Ali’s ability to tackle pertinent social issues in a creative, forceful way is unmatched, and this talent is shown here in spades. Ali speaks about race in a direct manner – partially through narrative – without being accusatory or divisive. The beat is driving and powerful, with a steel-drum/xylophone sample that fits perfectly.

Another highlight is “Babygirl,” in which Ali describes a young woman’s difficulties in overcoming childhood abuse. Again, Ali addresses a sensitive subject with the appropriate passion and skill that it deserves, and what results is a track that few artists can duplicate. The sample includes a muffled guitar riff, keys, and carefully placed percussion that famed Rhymesayers producer Ant is known for.

Other nice tracks include “House Keys,” in which Ali recalls robbing his drug-dealing upstairs neighbors and selling their products (don’t worry, they deserved it), “You Say (Puppy Love),” Ali’s ode to his lady over a string-laden guitar sample, and “Fresh Air,” another up-tempo, joyful track that proves Ali’s flow is a perfect match for Ant’s production.


There isn’t much to dislike about this album, but there is one thing to mention. “Best @ It” is a decent track featuring Freeway, but the production is confusing. Freeway handles the first verse over a mediocre sample. After Freeway spits, the beat changes to a much doper interpretation of the same sample (the drum pattern, bass line and melody are modified) and Ali absolutely murders it. It then switches back to the first version. Ali is still nice on the last portion, but it’s tough to understand why they went that route with the production. I think Freeway could have been featured in a better light; listen to it here and you’ll see (or hear) what I mean.


Brother Ali is a complete MC, and US is another solid effort. While it may not match his first LP, Shadows On The Sun, it certainly comes close. Ali and Ant have proven that they are a winning combo, and this is an album any hip-hop head can appreciate.

Rating: 4 out of 5

- JB

No comments:

Post a Comment