16 Songs, 1 Hour, 1 Minute

EDITORS’ NOTES

Where Brother Ali’s previous albums delved deep into his life story, Us describes life through the experiences of surrounding characters. To do that right, the songwriter needs a limitless well of empathy and generosity, which Brother Ali possesses. “Babygirl” looks at a girlfriend who is still struggling against the aftershocks of childhood abuse. Not only does Ali describe her pain, but also the effect it has on him: “How can she find peace in her mind when / Love means returning to the scene of a crime? / I can feel it inside we've reopened wounds every time we intertwine.” The album’s boldest work is “The Travelers,” which envisions the horror of the Middle Passage. At first the songs seems overly ambitious, but by the end the listener realizes that Ali is pushing the envelope in an attempt to push the listener towards a place of compassion. Bolstered by a series of organic, funk-infused beats (courtesy of Atmosphere producer Ant), Us proves that when it comes to sharpening and articulating messages of love and empathy, Brother Ali is the hardest working artist in rap music.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Where Brother Ali’s previous albums delved deep into his life story, Us describes life through the experiences of surrounding characters. To do that right, the songwriter needs a limitless well of empathy and generosity, which Brother Ali possesses. “Babygirl” looks at a girlfriend who is still struggling against the aftershocks of childhood abuse. Not only does Ali describe her pain, but also the effect it has on him: “How can she find peace in her mind when / Love means returning to the scene of a crime? / I can feel it inside we've reopened wounds every time we intertwine.” The album’s boldest work is “The Travelers,” which envisions the horror of the Middle Passage. At first the songs seems overly ambitious, but by the end the listener realizes that Ali is pushing the envelope in an attempt to push the listener towards a place of compassion. Bolstered by a series of organic, funk-infused beats (courtesy of Atmosphere producer Ant), Us proves that when it comes to sharpening and articulating messages of love and empathy, Brother Ali is the hardest working artist in rap music.

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About Brother Ali

Rapper and activist Brother Ali is among the most prominent artists on the Rhymesayers label. A Midwesterner born Jason Douglas Newman, Ali spent much of his life living in various cities in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan, where he was first introduced to breakdancing and graffiti and rapping. Eventually, his demo tape Rites of Passage made it into the hands of the still young Rhymesayers crew, who signed the MC and brought him along with them to the 2000 Scribble Jam, at which Ali was a finalist. In 2003 his debut, Shadows on the Sun, produced by Atmosphere's Ant and including a song ("Forest Whitiker") that spoke of his albinism, came out, followed by the Champion EP in 2004. The next few years were tough for Ali, a devout Muslim, as he was dealing with a divorce and struggling for custody of his son. However, all of this just provided fodder for his music, and in the spring of 2007, Brother Ali's sophomore album, The Undisputed Truth, hit shelves and became his first Billboard 200 entry. His 2009 effort Us advocated a return to true hip-hop, and was followed in 2012 by the more political minded Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color. In 2017, following a lengthy break between releases -- during which he performed at Rhymesayers' 20th anniversary concert -- Ali issued the Ant-produced All the Beauty in This Whole Life, one of his deepest and most uplifting works. ~ Marisa Brown

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