Brother Ali

Shadows on the Sun

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"We don't have bar mitzvahs," raps Brother Ali on "Room With a View," "we become men the first time our father hits us." There's a lot of anger and pain behind the sophomore (and first CD) release by the self-described "urban Norman Rockwell," but Brother Ali chooses not to wallow in self-pity. Instead, his carefully observed lyrics draw on his Muslim faith and his personal experiences, including the self-esteem issues he has faced as a heavy-set albino, to convey a positive message of transcending rage and overcoming self-doubt. Brother Ali is an articulate MC with a strong technique and an appealing personality; he's introspective, righteous, and proud without seeming humorless, self-righteous, or overbearing. You'll hear some braggadocio on this album, but Brother Ali demonstrates in "Win Some Lose Some" that he's willing to admit when he got his ass whooped. He also critiques male possessiveness in the ironic, laid-back "Prince Charming," which features a smooth-talking narrator who reveals through his own words that he's really a creepy stalker. Other tracks address topics such as spiritual power, domestic abuse, and, of course, wack MCs and shady promoters. Producer Ant (Atmosphere) blends soul, blues, and jazz to create sick beats that skillfully complement Ali, ranging from the the perky guitar that enhances the deliberate smarmimess of "Prince Charming" to the ominous trumpets that underpin the drama of "Room With a View"; some songs could have benefited from more changes and catchier hooks, but for the most part the music is compellingly straightforward. Slug (Atmosphere) is guest MC on two tracks, the battle rap "Blah Blah Blah" and the short (under two minutes) "Missing Teeth."

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