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Brother Ali + Treologic

Chase Martyn

Drunken college kids can (and will) dance to anything with a beat. And, in most cases, it will look funny.

Brother Ali + Treologic

Brother Ali + Treologic

City: Grinnell, Iowa
Venue: Grinnell College
Date: 2005-03-05

Brother Ali
Let's make one thing clear: drunken college kids can (and will) dance to anything with a beat. Whether it's "Hearts of Oak" or "Candy Shop", put it on and they will bust moves. And, in most cases, it will look funny. That made for some interesting scenes at Brother Ali's Grinnell College show, where most students are used to performances of the Yo La Tengo and The Elected varieties. But whatever their musical tastes, kids came in droves to see the underground hip-hopper spit rhymes. Hailing from Minneapolis, the city that produced some of today's best MCs, Ali's recent full-length Shadows of the Sun cemented his position among fellow members of the Rhymesayers collective -- Atmosphere, ANT, and MF DOOM to name a few. Incidentally, many of the Rhymesayers artists have attributed part of their underground success to the support they got from indie and punk rock fans. Ali deserves all of the praise he has received; the MC put on a solid hip-hop show. His performance was lively, with a versatile DJ providing the beats and healthy crowd participation. Ali was visibly angry but it was more inspiring than scary Had the audience read Ali's biography they might have been expecting something more unique than what they got. In addition to a number of old-school rappers, he lists among his heaviest influences Earth, Wind, and Fire. At his best, Ali's sound falls somewhere between Mos Def and Jurassic 5, but I'd be hard-pressed to find a "Head to the Sky" or "Saturday Nite" in his discography -- though that might not be a bad thing, given his talent as an MC. The audience also might have been surprised to find Ali's rhymes generally avoid the theme of race, a subject upon which Ali, who is black and has albinism, might offer particular insight. He seems content to let his audience think what they want about his race; he has plenty of other interesting topics to cover. Treologic, who kicked off the concert with jazz-infused beats and socially conscious lyrics, were more musically unique than Ali. The crowd of students was understandably impressed: playing a flute, or a saxophone, or a keyboard, or even a drum kit, with enough rhythm for MC Billa Camp to rhyme over it requires a level of coordination that hardly seems possible -- at least when you're watching it. The two acts offered an interesting contrast: Brother Ali is a genuinely excellent lyricist, accompanied only by turntables. The remarkable part of Treologic's performance, however, was more the jazz band accompanying him. By the end, most of the students at the show who weren't hip-hop fans before certainly had a greater appreciation for the elements. If this catches on, don't be surprised to find yourself amid a cloud of clove smoke at the next Nas show. Now if they could only dance�

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