25 September, 2012@10:06 am
The cover art of Brother Ali’s Mourning In America, Dreaming In Color is designed to draw a strong reaction. Some might find it entirely disrespectful, as there’s an unwritten law suggesting that the American flag should never be laid on the ground. Some might find it even more disrespectful that Ali, an American Muslim, is praying on top of it. But judging a book by it’s cover would definitely be a fault in this case, as Ali’s intentions are pure. Yes, this album cover shocks and gets your attention, but after listening to the LP, one begins to understand Brother Ali’s point of view.
Just as the president has had to dodge attacks of being a “secret Muslim” or someone who “hates America”, Brother Ali has most likely felt the same way at times in his career. From a man who once wrote “Uncle Sam, Goddamn”, he’s realized he loves his homeland, as referenced on the first track, “Letter To My Countrymen”, where he opens the album with “I used to think I hated this place / couldn’t wait to tell the prez straight to his face / but lately I changed, nowadays I embrace it all / beautiful ideals and amazing flaws.” This is what that album cover is about.
In the wake of the Occupy movement, Ali’s perspective is similar to many Americans; they don’t hate this country, but are frustrated with the way things are. Ali uses MIADIC to get some things off of his chest, such as “Mourning In America” or “Gather Round” which deals with how poverty inspires terrorism or tracks like “Work Everyday” that examines the plight of the blue collar worker, questioning how they can side with rich politicians.
Ali’s moves his platform from political to personal on several tracks, unveiling the human behind the lyrical freedom fighter. “Stop The Press” is an amazingly bittersweet song about the last couple years of his personal life, detailing the deaths of both his father and Eyedea. Later on “All You Need”, Brother Ali tries to explain his divorce with his drug-addicted wife to his young son, in a tale that he might one day understand.
Backed by the production of Jake One, Jake has produced some of the best beats in his catalog here, with some of them so big and apocalyptic (“Mourning In America”, “Fajr”) that they sound like they were originally meant for Detox (an album in which Jake has had input on). Other times, Jake has simply chosen the right sample, and freaked it correctly (“All You Need”).
In either case, both artists are in top form here, and have possibly created the best work of their respective careers. Whereas something like Cruel Summer turns a blind eye to the problems in our country, pretending they aren’t there, Mourning In America, Dreaming In Color examines them in great detail, over Jake’s raw, musical backdrops. The seamless combination of substance heavy lyrics and sonically pleasing production makes this perhaps the most important hip-hop album of the year.
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