Brother Ali boycotts Grammys, drops free EP
While most of y'all were lazing around watching the Grammy Awards on Sunday, Brother Ali was staging a personal protest. "I'm boycotting the Grammy's. Refusing to watch until @Atmosphere gets a nomination. (or until I get TV at my house)," he tweeted. Although Bon Iver's double win signals some loosening of the major-label stronghold on the event, hip-hop categories are still locked down by the mainstream acts. The gap between Drake and the attitudes of Rhymesayers, Ali and Atmosphere's label, which was built with bricks of philanthropy and good intentions, doesn't appear to be closing anytime soon.
So, in the mean time, Brother Ali has released a seven-song EP entitled The Bite Marked Heart for free.
Last night during the Grammys, Ali and Slug of Atmosphere riffed publicly about this dichotomy, engaging in a tongue-in-cheek Twitter exchange about "music's biggest night's" continual snubbing of the Rhymesayers movement.
@BrotherAli if we ever get nominated, i will hi-jack a b--- b-- truck and bring you 8 flat screen tv's.-- atmosphere (@atmosphere) February 13, 2012
Though the statement was coated by a joke about Ali's total disengagement from all mainstream media (anybody surprised that he isn't tuning into The Voice ?), the sentiment says something about the conscious finiteness of Rhymesayers' moral approach to hip-hop.
They've stuck to their indie guns from the get-go -- they stayed in Minnesota, they kept "bitches and hoes" out of their rhetoric, and they haven't won a Grammy. But the tone of Slug and Ali's dialogue tells us that, however deserving they feel they might be, industry recognition was never the goal.
As successful as their movement has become, there is a mainstream ozone layer that -- for better or worse -- good-natured, "emo" rap has been unable to pierce. In 100 years when the deciders of history determine just what to make of the hip-hop movement, it's very possible that Ali and Atmosphere will represent those that did it right -- even if "Grammy Award-winning" was never one of their epithets.
In the meantime, let's enjoy the spoils of having altruistic artists in our backyard. Here's The Bite Marked Heart, a soulful taste of the thematic spoonful Ali feeds you throughout the EP: be good to your neighbor, love conquers all, live in the moment, etc. The full EP can be downloaded here.
Also, here's the video for "Shine On."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.