It seems like Brother Ali was destined to make music that speaks not just about himself, but the larger collective. He was destined to be a voice for a wide range of people, to participate in social movements, to somewhat amplify the voice of the marginalized. After all, it is because of social justice seekers that the world even knows who he is. I learned during our interview, which took place on a cold Friday morning in mid February, that Brother Ali’s whole rap career was funded after his friend won a settlement after being beaten by police. It was Keith Ellison, the Minnesota Congressmen, that represented Ali’s friend at the time, that won the settlement that funded Ali’s demo, Rites of Passage. To this day, Ellison remains a bright spot for Brother Ali, someone who gives him hope and faith in what can be some depressing times. After all, there’s always a few Michelle Bachman’s for every Keith Ellison.
That’s really how the world works. There’s always some kind of joy to be found, as well as depression and injustice all around us. This dichotomy is at the forefront of Brother Ali’s forthcoming album, Mourning In America and Dreaming In Color. The LP will be released later this year via Rhymesayers, but was started in 2011 after a rough year for Brother Ali and America as a whole. “I thought, ‘I’m going to make this album Mourning In America, it’s going to be the most fucked up, dark, depressing shit I’ve ever done,” Ali said, “Fuck these people, and I don’t care if anybody likes it. But it’s the truth, this is the truth that needs to be told.” And that’s what he did. But a funny thing happened. After much needed time off, Ali was able to reconnect with his family, his friends, and his community and began to find reasons for hope and joy. He saw that out of these terrible conditions there was a new growing hope and decided to switch things up and make a happier LP, Dreaming In Color.
“Then as time went on I realized that it really is both,” he said. “I took the best parts of both of those records and made an album about how bad things are, but also because it’s so bad there’s such enormous possibilities.” In this interview, Ali goes in-depth about his new album, what he did during his time off, not letting down his Rhymesayers family, and much more. Check it out.