class=img_thumbleft>During the first month of Brother Ali
's 2007 U.S. tour, road manager Randy Hawkins somehow kept graffiti taggers away from the Minneapolis rapper's trailer--that is, until the first spray paint appeared in Charlottesville a few weeks ago. "Since then, it's been tagged about 8,000 times," says Hawkins, speaking last Friday via cell phone from somewhere between San Luis Obispo and San Francisco. "It looks like I parked in New York for a week." Fans hoping to make their mark might not realize the downside of a graffiti-covered trailer hitched to a shiny silver Ford van: vehicular profiling. Twice in May, the Rhymesayers have been pulled over by authorities: once in Texas, where police were looking for stolen band equipment; once by an unmarked squad car in Mississippi. In the latter incident, Brother Ali and friends were asked whether the trailer contained rocket launchers, grenades, machine guns, cocaine, or marijuana. They said no, and the police declined to search the trailer after getting permission to do so.
Ali's tour winds up June 8 and 9 at First Avenue, but if you miss that, he returns to the venue July 31 and August 1 as part of the touring Paid Dues Independent Hip-Hop Festival, which also features Felt, Living Legends, and others. On that tour, the rappers will dispense with the van and trailer to use a bus.