Brother Ali has so much national momentum right now that he's already rapping his apologies to family and ummah for not spending enough time with them--and this is only his second CD, a tide-me-over between 2003'sShadows on the Sun and whatever comes next. Good thing Minneapolis's palest hip-hop breakout has enough material to roll all gold here. He leverages his credibility as a devout Muslim to assert the dignity of McDonald's employees and the masculinity of expert cunnilingus. "Don't you know it's your biology to come?" he raps on "Heads Down (You Haven't Done That Yet)." "What separates the men from boys, masturbation from lovemaking, is making your woman really hum."
The producer, meanwhile, is humming like a muscle car: Ant somehow manages to evoke gospel without sampling it on the cut-time, hand-clapping funk number "Waheedah's Hands." The erstwhile silent partner of Atmosphere announces his intentions to outdo himself right off the bat with a reggae remix of the title track, which appeared on the debut and now seems to sample one record from each of Jamaican music's previous four decades simultaneously.
Only the repetitive "Self Taught" feels boilerplate--I'm reasonably sure fans know better than to dis Ali at this point. "Fuck rapping, I sing off key," spits our hero. But I think he should reconsider: If ever a rapper had a singer's natural resonance, it's Brother Ali. "Champion," "Sleepwalker," and other tracks argue for hitting notes as a way to stomp all over Lyric's Born's gravel, just as Ant has put a foot in Kanye West's soul.
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