Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Brother Ali - The Truth Is Here [EP] (Review)

Brother Ali
The Truth Is Here [EP]
Release Date: March 10th, 2009

Some might say he doesn’t quite look the part, but Brother Ali fully assumes the role of a genuine emcee. I first heard of him in 2003, when he released his Rhymesayers debut Shadows on the Sun. The album introduced me to his autobiographical flow which blended well with Ant’s soulful production. Since then, they’ve been inseparable and unstoppable from putting out quality material. Case in point: Brother Ali’s ’07 release The Undisputed Truth, which extensively broadened his fan base. So what can we expect from this brief EP titled The Truth Is Here? Walk with me…

Listening to his recordings, one often gets the sense that Brother Ali truly lives his music. On November 5th of last year for instance, he released the jubilant, Marvin Gaye-sampling “Obama, You’re the Man”, emphasizing not only the importance of Barack’s victory, but conveying the significance of the event to his young child. While many musicians nowadays opt towards opening themselves up with blogs and vlogs (Jump Off!), Brother Ali kicks it old school by communicating with his fans through… what’s the word I’m looking for… ah, yes… music! Amidst a narrative of tour stop tidbits (“[I’m] with the lord Rakim, we’re chillin’, shopping for drawers/”), tragedy, and triumph, Ali can proudly announce: “…what more can I say except I’ve got a brand new baby daughter on the way”.

If you recall, Ali dropped a verse on a Wale track titled “2nd Time Around” that had me jumping with joy. One of the lines that always stuck out was the following: “People are starving, you’re talking about balling/ Can’t think of nothing more important than that jargon/”. Part of what’s so great about Ali is that he epitomizes what a great emcee should be all about: the people. The fans, the masses, the culture. He’s as down to earth as it gets. Just peep this line from The Truth Is Here’s “Good Lord”: “I’m so beautifully human and I’m proud of it/”. ‘nuff said.

Another one of Brother Ali’s top skills has gotta be his impeccable versatility, as he’s able to weave his way through blues and soul with ease. On the haunting “Philistine David”, he’s recollecting a tormented past: “I was aged by the pain that I saw/ Outside my front door was the front line of a wall/ Shots get fired, I cry on the floor/ Underneath my bed try’na hide from it all/”. He also touches on broad-ranging topics like love (“Baby Don’t Go”), prison life (“Little Rodney”), suicide (“Palm the Joker”) and more – all with a sense of urgency, all with a forceful, compelling delivery.

But it’s not just enough that he spits some well-written bars with complex rhyme patterns. Ali’s soul and subject matter fuse harmoniously with Ant’s carefully-crafted soul trips, providing a comfy mattress for the emcee to rest his thoughts. Be it the bouncy keys and claps of “Good Lord”, the loopy, funky vibes of “Talkin’ My Shit” (sidenote: which kinda reminds me of Big Daddy Kane’s “Taste of Chocolate”), or the dragged out sample on “Begin Here”, Ali can always effectively convey his ups and downs through the perfect vehicle. Indeed, the importance of the emcee/producer relationship is exhibited by the perfect tradeoff between Ali and Ant.

Given The Truth Is Here’s short playback time but strong track-by-track congruence, I’m sure that you’ll give this a few repeat spins as I’ve been doing throughout this past week or so. Whenever an EP has got you hooked as if it were a full-fledged album, you know you’re messing with something that’s worthwhile. The added DVD is just a bonus to keep you on your toes for what Brother Ali’s got in stores for us come Autumn of this year. Overall, I’d have to admit that The Truth Is Here is 2009’s best release as of yet. "Y'all ain't fuckin' with that Brother Ali"!