Live Video: Brother Ali

photo by Dave Lichterman (view set)

The album cover for Minnesota rapper Brother Ali‘s 2012 LP, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, features the Muslim artist praying towards Mecca and kneeling on an American flag as his prayer rug. The image encapsulates much of the spirit which Brother Ali has staked his career on. Brother Ali’s social commentary is uncompromising and honest — the memorable controversy sparked by the lyrical content of his 2007 hit “Uncle Sam Goddam” (“…Welcome to the United Snakes, land of the thief, home of the slave, who grant imperial guard where the dollar is sacred and power is god…”) ended up with his corporate sponsor Verizon dumping him midway through a national tour when the rapper refused to compromise on his stance in the song. The difference of the artistic activism of Mourning in America… compared to his previous albums is, as he tells Larry Mizell Jr. live in the KEXP studio below, that this time around he is more focused on public concerns than personal concerns. This is true — considering how a song like “Only Life I Know” deals with the effects of the economic crisis, or how “Gather Round” calls for civic involvement — but anyone listening to Brother Ali for the last ten years knows that the rapper has always had a more-than-common concern for the greater good, even when rapping about personal issues. And you should listen to Brother Ali now as he performs songs from Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, which he recorded in Seattle’s own Capitol Hill neighborhood with producer Jake One, and is joined by his live band, Blank Tape Beloved, live on Street Sounds:

Full Performance:

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