Five Brother Ali classics you've probably never heard

Five Brother Ali classics you've probably never heard
Photo by Jonathan Mannion

See Also:
Cover Story: Brother Ali in His Own Words
Brother Ali: The day I met Cornel West

This week, hometown hero and indie rap superstar Brother Ali unleashes his new album Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color. Declaring that it's not only a new album, but a new chapter in his career, we decided to mark the occasion by taking a look back at the best lesser-known jams that the big Brother has in his catalog. Like our rare Slug songs piece a few weeks back, we stuck to the rules of choosing nothing originally found on ANY official Brother Ali commercial releases. Here's five of the dopest deep cuts of his we could dig up.

5. "Eighty-8" w/ DJ BK-One 2000

While you may remember this short-but-sweet bit of yesteryear from DJ Abilities' ...For Persons with DJ Abilities mix, "Eighty-8" was Ali's BK-One assisted tribute to his favorite year of rap. A touch of nostalgia before throwback-rap was cool, Ali sets the tone by first mentioning such '88 staples as Mike Tyson's Punch-Out and Rosie Perez. He later solidifies the perfect vibe by closing the song with a series of the year's most memorable lines.

4. "Live from the Chippy Bun Club" w/ Mr. Dibbs 2003

In 2003, Brother Ali's debut Shadows on the Sun immediately earned him a reputation as an incredible storyteller. From the imagery in "Room With a View" to the twists and turns in "Dorian," Ali proved he could weave a tale with the best of them. For many years, one of his most unforgettable narratives could only be found on the Sandbox Automatic bonus disc that came packaged with pre-orders of Mr. Dibbs' The 30th Song album. Ali's "Live at the Chippy Bun Club" tells the type of war story Hollywood seldom acknowledges, a proud veteran pushed to the absolute brink while defending the honor of all he has left.

3. Non-Prophets - "Doomage" (f/ Brother Ali, Slug and produced by MF Doom) 2004

A veritable underground all-stars dream team was assembled for the remix of Sage Francis' former duo Non-Prophets' single "Damage." "Doomage," produced by MF Doom, gathered Brother Ali, Sage and Slug together on one track with all new verses for the rarest of moments when the stars align for a worthy complete re-imagining.


2. "5 Line King" 2006

From Doomtree's Meat Tape mixtape comes "5 Line King," Brother Ali's ode to public transit. It's a testament to Ali's gifts as a writer that he manages to conjure up so many nuanced details about his history, his personality and his environment, all in one verse about riding a bus.

1. "Fuck You Mean" (f/ PackFM, Slug and Brother Ali) 2007

The first single and closing track on producer Domingo's The Most Underrated compilation, "Fuck You Mean" aligned Ali and Slug with east coast underground icons QN5's PackFM for one of the absolute best posse cuts 2007 had to offer. Here Ali, at the height of his Undisputed Truth-era bravado, closes the track by soulfully smashing it as only he can.

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