Back in February, I wrote about how Brother Ali’s sixth studio album All The Beauty in This Whole Life was desperately needed in 2017. At the time, we were two months into a Trump presidency and racial tensions seemed to be at an all-time high.
Today, we’re five months into 45’s surrealist take on the presidency of the United States of America and the last time I checked, increasingly emboldened hate crimes on people of color are still on the rise across the nation. Hope is still tangible, people are still banding together in unprecedented occurrences of unity across races, religions and sexual orientations, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for feeling overwhelmed by daily anxieties rooted in our current state of affairs.
Brother Ali’s music has always been a shining beacon of not only hope but resilience. On All The Beauty In This Whole Life—his first album in five years—the only thing that’s changed is the intensity of the hatred he’s combatting, matched only by the intensity of the love he uses to send it right back.
3 Standout Songs:
“Dear Black Son”
Throughout his discography, Ali has shared tales of embracement and hospitality by African Americans in his life, and his personal life has reflected a clear alliance with those fighting oppression and racism in all forms.
Race has always played an important role in his music, but on “Dear Black Son,” the subject is addressed through the hyper-personal lens of advice to his son, Faheem. Had this record been attempted by anyone but Brother Ali, whose multidimensional comprehension of race and prejudice make the song just as much an education for those that wish to be allies to their Black brothers and sisters as it is a heartfelt letter from a concerned father, the premise could’ve very easily turned trite.
“Uncle Usi Taught Me”
This song is a re-telling of an insane story Ali told on The Combat Jack Show about his travels to Iran and is a wonderful example of Ali’s storytelling abilities.
If you don’t feel like reading the entire breakdown I did of Ali’s outrageous saga, this song offers a bouncy cliff notes version that is actually more poetic and descriptive than I was able to achieve in three times the word count.
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Even when telling a story about himself, Ali is able to inject a worldly wisdom into his lyrics that holds plenty of universally applicable gems for anyone willing to take notice.
“Out of Here”
As much as Brother Ali’s music can be a loving finger pointed towards a hopeful future, it can also be a firm fist pressing deep into issues that he believes deserve attention.
On “Out of Here,” Ali addresses the hellish spectrum of emotions he’s experienced after losing both his grandfather and father to suicide, a tragedy far too many have been faced with in a country that’s yet to place a proper importance on mental health.
This isn’t a sunny, “tomorrow will be better” song. This is a heartbreaking, unflinching stare into the abyss of human despair and the confusion and pain it leaves behind, and it’s just as therapeutic and beautiful as the more love-centric tunes on All The Beauty.
From start to finish, All The Beauty in This Whole Life is everything I hoped it would be back in February, and so much more. The past five years have loaded Ali’s archive of rhymes with a perfectly honed thoughtfulness and a bevy of mission statements through which to deliver it.
The production on this album crackles with the warmth of secondhand vinyl even in digital form, and throughout the majority of the album, Ali feels like a comforting friend who is sitting by your side simultaneously playing the roles of teacher, student and peer.
I’ve always felt that the world needs more artists people like Brother Ali and assuming this album makes it to as many ears as it deserves to, I have faith that his music will slowly but surely create the next generation of soldiers of light.
After all, that’s who Ali is—a warrior of the heart and a soldier of light doing his best to tip the scales in favor of love, compassion and understanding.