Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s featured selection, chosen by Afternoon Show host Kevin Cole, is “The Travelers” by Brother Ali from his 2009 album Us on Rhymesayers Entertainment.
In 2009, many argue that we as a nation have finally achieved equality between all people. Many believe religion, sex, class, ability, sexual orientation and especially race are no longer deciding factors of a person’s rights or freedom. After hundreds of years, many comfortably contend that we’ve moved beyond our country’s discriminatory past and have come to a point of acceptance and even colorblindness of those different from ourselves. Well, Minnesota-born emcee Brother Ali raps to differ.
Like his last five releases, Ali’s 2009 album Us isn’t for the casual listener. With ANT’s soulful and lush beats and Ali’s brutal, preacher-like lyrics, the hip hop record demands attention, stirring up emotions of anger, sadness, guilt and joy. Ali also moves away from his usual autobiographical reflection of his life as an Albino Muslim and shifts to an overall examination of society. He aims to shake awake and crack open the consciences of the socially sedated who live in the fogged reality of today’s one-sided history, disconnected from the past. “The Travelers” most obviously and brutally touches on this fact, serving as a vivid chronicle of a slave’s journey from their homeland and life in America. Over a dismal xylophone riff, the first verse translates the bewilderment, anguish and fury of a person being ripped from their loved ones, culture and livelihood. The second verse soon flips to the perspectives of those directly and indirectly responsible for the inhumane act. Ali admits that his fans don’t want to hear a song about slavery, but he’s determined to talk about something that has irreparably stained our souls. “You’re a human being, and so anything that happens to humanity happens to [all of] humanity,” Ali says about “The Travelers.”
For more about Ali’s philosophy, tour dates and to hear additional songs off the new album, check out his MySpace page, where you’ll also find out where he’s headed next while on tour. Not stop scheduled for Seattle yet, but maybe in the new year. For now, sit back and take in this incredibly moving glimpse behind the scenes of the new album: