Letter to My Countrymen by Brother Ali (6.8) (ups to NadaP on the recco)
Brother Ali’s new album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, dropped a week or so ago to some positive press. That is, Pitchfork, NPR, and NadaP lauded it. (NadaP even gave me copy of it as he had come up with it through whatever underground means rappers share music with each other.) I had listened to one of Brother Ali’s prior albums, The Undisputed Truth, and suffice it to say I was intrigued by what else he could do.
It’s not bad. He’s very political, but in that wistful and disappointed way that tends to make me depressed. (e.g. America could be the greatest country in the world if we’d all just be nicer to each other. Listen to all the shit/self-inflicted wounds I’ve survived, and I’m still a reasonably nice guy. I’m a rapper even. Only in America). It gets a little tiring, and his beats and samples aren’t enough to compensate for lack of a rapper’s voice. I’m not saying he doesn’t have any flow, because he does. However, his voice sounds like a genial and chubby father getting a little too excited at his ten year old’s soccer game…when he doesn’t really know anything about soccer, but just knows how to get loud and passionate. But he makes good points that sound like they come from a good place. I guess I want to like it more than I actually do, but I’m glad he made it. (N.B. See Treme)
But I’ll be honest, what initially intrigued me about Brother Ali (born: Jason Newman) is that he suffers from albinism (the “albino shit” he calls it). Which, besides altering his appearance in way that has both a tendency to freak me out (in that I’m sure one of his ancestors lost some kind of cosmic wager and the price they had to pay was the soul of one of their decedents) and makes me assume that he has some sort of magical powers, has also left him legally blind. Growing up, his Caucasian peers (N.B. He was born in 1977, so let’s be clear, WD would have been one of them, if not the fucking ringleader of his asshole peers) subjected him to ridicule such that he actually felt more welcome and found comfort spending time in the black community. (N.B. And let me tell you how proud this makes me to be white… N.B. Zero). And one of the results of his being embraced by the black community after being rejected by his “peers” was a love of hip hop, then a career in hip hop, then a successful career in hip hop such that noted, respected, and internationally renown professor of African American Studies and Religious Philosophy, Dr. Cornel West adds the coda on this very track. So he’s getting his.
And the assholes who made fun of him would prolly feel guilty about it if they had time between writing snarky blog posts, picking fights with the umpires at their snotty kid’s little league games, or free-basing all you can eat rib-lets at Applebees’… but who knows?
I don’t know why, but Brother Ali still has faith in this part of America as well.
I’ve identified four phrases in the English language that once you hear someone say them, you can be certain that the next statement they make will completely contradicts the antecedent phrase. I’m sure you’re familiar with them as well. I guess most topical given the above would be “I’m not racist or anything.” 100% guaranty the next thing out of that person’s mouth will be racist. The one those in my (daytime) profession particularly despise is: “I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job…” …but here’s how I think you doing your job wrong. On a karmic level, however, much worse is “Hey, I love my wife, but…” Fill in the blank. I’m sure there are others, but the fourth one is “I’m not trying to brag but….