Brother Ali - The Undisputed Truth

Posted April 23, 2007
Tags: Brother Ali,

Ever since hip-hop’s cross-faded birth first echoed against the urban decay of the Bronx, the...

The Undisputed Truth Album Review

Ever since hip-hop’s cross-faded birth first echoed against the urban decay of the Bronx, the music has provided the voiceless with a voice. It’s no wonder hip-hop has spread like wildfire across the globe and found a place in the hearts of millions. Brother Ali is not only a seriously skilled MC; he’s also an ardent Muslim, an albino, and a single father. In other words he’s exactly the kind of person destined to pick up a mic and let his words bump out the speakers. His new album, The Undisputed Truth, is a testament to hip-hop as an art form that’s capable of blending and remixing virtually every musical genre and voice on the planet into something new and alive.

Ali has unabashedly embraced one of hip-hop’s oldest traditions, rhyming about yourself. When done right such personal accounts become something everyone can relate to. The track Walking Away details his painful divorce to the mother of his child and the beat is whistling and soulful. The song feels like the kind of wandering and often uncomfortably honest conversations you have with your friends during late-night walks home from the bar. Ali’s keeping it real for those of us who will never sit on a yacht sipping champagne with models.

The Undisputed Truth is dedicated to showing us what we don’t want to see, but there’s a reason most people avoid songs about pain and sorrow, over time even the most insightful tracks can become monotonous. Here is one of the best cuts on the album, a minimally produced song that will have you pressing your headphones to your ears to catch every word. Unfortunately Here is near the end of the album, and by the time you get to it the journey’s been so exhuasting it’s hard to pay attention.

Ali’s also not shy about reping his political views and such conscious verses are desperately needed, but when they become repetitive it’s only natural to stop listening. Uncle Sam Goddamn is a litany of America’s wrongs that provokes some serious thought, and the equally deep Truth Is immediately follows it, leaving the listener gasping for air. Luckily Truth Is features an innovative beat by Rhymesayer’s in-house producer Ant that eases any feelings of monotony. Ant’s production weaves southern soul, country, and new-school bangin' seamlessly throughout the album, and the vibrant energy of the beats serves as a balance to Ali’s lyrical weight.

Ali is capable of more than just sober seriousness, the album ends on a hopeful note with the tracks Ear To Ear and Daylight. Both tracks are built on a foundation of soul rhythms and horn sections, and display a charismatic flow from Ali that was previously largely hidden on the album. Scattering these more uplifting tracks throughout the album instead of packaging them at the end would have provided some much needed breathing room; the darkness isn’t so depressing if there’s at least a glimmer of light from a dope party at the end of the tunnel.

Any serious hip-hop head knows Nas’ announcement that hip-hop is dead was premature, hip-hop’s too complex and diverse to pass away so easily. For every Jim Jones out there capable of only hitting one note (“Ballin!”) there’s a Brother Ali steadfastly carrying out Kool Herc’s tradition. There’s nothing wrong with shallow rap in and of itself, the problem is when it’s the only thing on the airwaves. Cake is delicious, but you just can’t live off dessert alone. The Undisputed Truth brings some serious nutrients to a game in dire need of a solid meal. Sit down with Brother Ali and eat till you’re full.

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted April 23, 2007
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