A lot of rappers these days talk about “swagger”, as it seems to be the current buzz word in hip-hop, but how many of them really have it? Brother Ali rarely utters the word – in fact it probably hasn’t even come out of his mouth – however he exudes it. His confidence comes out in both his stage show and his studio performances, despite having the physical abnormalities and handicaps of being a a legally blind albino. That being said, Brother Ali is “swagger” defined.
With his new EP, The Truth Is Here, that level of confidence seeps through the music, even in this tightly knit appetizer to his forthcoming full-length LP due at the end of this year. It opens up with the aptly-titled “Real As Can Be”, driven by a slithery flute-loop, as Brother Ali explains what he has been up to over the last year. This song is the perfect re-introduction for Ali, as he vividly paints a portrait of his life on tour, remembering moments of meeting Rakim and Busy Bee. Every line is delivered in his trademark cool-as-a-cucumber style, matching the track perfectly. We also find him in this element later on the album on “Talkin’ My Shit”, as he describes himself as “backpack rap’s answer to Sam Kinison” and “Butterbean on crack”. Even in self-parody, he doesn’t miss a beat.
But Brother Ali doesn’t spend all of his time waxing poetically about himself, most of his content is on the serious tip. Songs like “Philistine David” and “Palm The Joker” examine political injustices, while “Little Rodney” examines the youth’s fascination with prison. Here, Ali comes off like a 90′s Ice Cube, speaking from the perspective of the man in the song’s title, explaining that it’s actually not all that cool to go to jail just for bragging rights. As the album closes with “Begin Here”, we get a stripped down version of Ali, as he opens his soul to the fans examining his place and responsibility as an artist.
While he may clown around a bit on something like “The Believers” with Slug, even when spitting brutally real game to a female (“Baby Don’t Go”) we find Brother Ali is pretty much an open book. His Koran-thumping will annoy listeners that aren’t members of his religion, however this is testament to his (hate-to-say-this-word) realness. Even in a post September 11th America, Ali sticks to his guns despite his views being unpopular in the mainstream. But regardless of whatever political, religious background one might have, many will agree that Ali is crafting a brand of quality, honest hip-hop music that is seldom seen these days. The Truth Is Here couldn’t be a more accurate declaration. – Pizzo
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