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Brother Ali

The Truth Is Here

(Rhymesayers Entertainment; US: 10 Mar 2009; UK: 10 Mar 2009)

Consistency is a game Brother Ali is not afraid to play. The smooth Minneapolis emcee has proven that he is capable of churning out top-notch, praiseworthy material without breaking a sweat, though sometimes it might take a little while. And that’s just what he has done with The Truth Is Here, a well-crafted nine-song teaser of his full-length album dropping this fall.


Though it offers nothing groundbreaking or devastatingly different, this EP delivers the goods. But should this come as any surprise? Not really, especially to Brother Ali and Ant, whom you also know as the producer half of Atmosphere. The pair had one hell of a 2008, as Ali speaks to on the jazzy, muted trumped-driven “Real As I Can Be”. Their last collaboration, ‘07’s The Undisputed Truth, was, aptly, an undisputed hit and led to the following year’s thrills of a global tour and steady album sales. So you can’t blame Ali for writing a braggadocio-filled track like “Talkin’ My Shit”, which hits its stride thanks to Ant’s funky rhythms. The same goes for “The Believers”, another funky joint with a bass line that you can almost feel. It also has Ali paired up with Rhymesayers brethren Slug as the emcees boast about their shared hometown, record label, and talents. And just in case you got the wrong idea, Ali made sure to show his appreciation to both his fans and loved ones on the mellow and raw “Begin Here”. If there was ever a track to show just how skilled and humble Ali is, this is it.


But, like any Ali album, it’s not all sunshine and shit-talking. Just as he is praised for his passionate battle rhymes, he receives, and deserves, equal admiration for his introspective lyrics. And, with Ant by his side, he successfully weaves his more downtrodden tales across both uplifting and depressing landscapes.  On the bluesy “Little Rodney”, Ali spits what is essentially a scared straight anthem, which immediately brings the mood down. That pain and anguish is balanced, though, on the personal, and somehow fun, “Palm the Joker”. Similarly, “Good Lord” is undeniably catchy, mostly based on the twinkling piano, banging drums, and sing-song chorus. It’s Ali’s ability to find the good in the bad that makes him not just gifted but well-rounded, too.


The EP doesn’t end once “Begin Here” fades from your speakers, though. Packed with it is a DVD loaded with interviews, a live performance in Minneapolis, and videos for “Take Me Home” and “Uncle Sam Goddamn”, the latter of which is better. If you haven’t seen the Brother in concert prior to viewing this footage, it almost acts as a spoiler. Of course, if you’re unable to get out to see him, that’s a different story, but I would highly recommend catching his show before watching this. But, to be fair, it’s still a nice feature that allows fans to relive or virtually experience his captivating stage presence.


Whether this is your first foray into Ali’s catalog or you’re already a seasoned fan, there is no reason to not check this out. While some tracks are admittedly sloppy, like portions of “Talkin’ My Shit”, and nothing here is especially innovative, the overall product is well worth your time. Also, the DVD might be a nice bonus, but the music on here is what will hold your attention.

Rating:

Weekly newspaper reporter by day, music reviewer by night (OK, and by day, too). When he's not writing for PopMatters, Andrew spends most of his time at online magazine Prefix and hip-hop site Potholes In My Blog.


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Brother Ali - The Truth Is Here DVD Trailer
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