BEST HIP-HOP ARTIST Minneapolis 2007 - Brother Ali
Readers' Choice: Atmosphere
There's a move that Brother Ali makes with his neck while rapping that isn't quite a full head-nod. It's a side-to-side swivel, a physical groove so slight, you'd miss it if you didn't feel it in your own neck as you listen to Brother Ali's music. This is the visual counterpart to a flow that swings harder than ever on his new album, The Undisputed Truth (Rhymesayers). The album is a culmination of the sing-song reggae/blues/rap that Ali has mustered for seven years with producer Ant, of Atmosphere. As rich as a Sly and the Family Stone record, the disc finds a Minneapolis outsider-everyman (overweight, albino, Muslim) who's been focused by social outrage and ground down—yet somehow remains content. "Ear to Ear" shows the rhyme skills it takes to rap about being happy, what with new love and the steady income earned from touring with Atmosphere and Rakim. "To me 'not broke' is rich/Got a two-bedroom, a new sofa to sit," spits Ali. "For the first time I didn't go to Goodwill or St. Stevens, but Ikea/Put that boy together last weekend." That's Ali all over—celebrating change short of revolution, riches short of wealth. These are the ideals of a guy gently rejecting rap's all-or-nothing challenge, his head bobbing back and forth to the beat.