The Undisputed Truth
There are not many truths in this world that are undisputed, but if anyone can make you into a subscriber of their brand of unquestionable reality, it is Rhymesayers' Brother Ali. The Minnesota native went from obscurity to relative stardom with 2003's instant classic Shadows on the Sun (first called such by yours truly right here). Ali proved to be an absolutely indomitable beast, bringing soul bearing narratives and jaw dropping battle raps in a way that can only be described by the phrase "something to behold." In the years since his seminal Rhymesayers debut the Brother has sharpened his teeth with 04's golden Champion EP and an extensive touring schedule that left stunned onlookers everywhere.
The Undisputed Truth comes at a pivotal moment for Hip Hop, as honest music is becoming as rare as a snowless winter in Minneapolis. Just as critical, in this day and age of manufactured, one-dimensional rappers with the depth of a cardboard cutout, Brother Ali is the genuine article in every sense of the term. With a few more years of strife on his resume, Ali has taken his already introspective variety of music and made one of the more personal and moving albums that Hip Hop has ever seen. After a painful divorce and gaining the custody of his only son, he makes you feel every emotion that he is trying to convey like you were right there with him through it all. Over a melancholy beat lead by a regretful whistle, Ali pens a letter on "Walking Away" to his ex wife that you'd feel even if you were bathing in Novocain: "fresh out of forced tears, kisses and hugs/you about to lose the company your misery loves/ain't never did nothin' but try and kill your disease/at least help the symptoms, instead you infected me/I'm not the kind of man to draw a line in the sand/if you gotta draw at all then its time for your to scram." The crazy thing is he only ups the ante on the following song ("Faheem"), as he turns his speech to his son: "I just pray you don't remember us sleeping on the floor/and me cleaning mouse droppings outta your toys/it took a lot of hard for us to get where we at/and young man we ain't quittin' at that." You've never felt a man's pride as much as you do on this song. The sum of their parts is put into final perspective as he closes out the album with "Ear To Ear," which is the proverbial hero's walk into the sunset.
We're getting ahead of ourselves though, as there are 12 dope songs that precede these. The LP kicks off with a definitive Ali track in "Watcha Got." As he tends to on stage, Ali towers over the competition here with vicious battle raps and once-in-a-lifetime presence. It's not so much that you're listening to him rap, it's more like he has you pinned against the wall with a hand around your throat as he launches his tirade. He raps with the kind of ferocity that will leave you wide-eyed and breathless, in very much the same way that a young Ice Cube did. The funny thing is, his presence and delivery still take a back seat to his words; as his manifesto and lead single "Truth Is" displays. As he demands more truth over Ant's slick island vibe, you'll be left rewinding the track to catch some more of that truth: "people need more freedom/children need to hear more truth when y'all teachin/damn I wanna hear a plan from the dude preachin/got new seeds with true needs and who's leadin?/I truly believe every word I ever uttered on a drum break/ right or wrong, life go on, but it wasn't nothin fake/I demand you start listening to the crowd/if not, we gon' burn this bitch to the ground/gimme more!"
The lessons continue throughout the album; "Freedom Ain't Free" sees him destroying and rebuilding himself whenever necessary ("If I don't like my life I gut it and rebuild it/fuck it, keep nothing but God and my children/I kill the devil wherever he resides/even if he hidin' in me he got to die"); here is a brilliant extended metaphor describing a relationship with him as an old house ("it's not much but all of its yours/take great caution if you wanna explore/watch your head when you openin' the doors/and always remember that the choice was yours"); and Uncle Sam Goddamn has Ali's swagger at it's finest as he indicts the U.S. of A. over Ant's bluesy production ("smoke and mirrors, stripes and stars/goin' for the cross in the name of god/bloodshed, genocide, rape and fraud/written into the pages of the law, good lawd").
All this talk of Ali and I've barely mentioned Ant's incredible wall-to-wall production, all of which manages to capture and compliment the Big Bad Brother (surely no easy feat). Given the meaning and severity of his rhymes, and just his talent in general, it would criminal if his producer(s) couldn't keep up with him and do his words the justice they so richly deserve. Thankfully, Ant does just that and the result is yet another album from Brother Ali that is impossible to rate anything less than a 5. Listen to this album and convince me there is a better artist on this planet - it doesn't matter if he isn't on the radio or selling millions. The music speaks for itself, and this is the truth...
"I never said I had a business mind, I just don't believe quittin' time exists/ain't no finish line to this, you gotta gimme mine, I really shine, my given time is this/live and die with the grind, driven by the fist/where do you place my name if I never played ya game?/we don't race the same, I don't run inside no painting lane/plus y'all pace is strange, ya either stop or your sprint/run when its sunny and hide if it change to rain/I wouldn't be half the Ali that I am/if I slowed up and tried to bleed in with these people fam/I'm every bit as unconcerned as they are unprepared/market flooded, needless to say I wasn't scared/let's all drop the same day I don't fuckin' care/put listenin' stations in the store and let the public hear/better yet let's have an in store performance/make it oranges to oranges, me toe off on your endurance/then we'll shoot the shit with our supporters/and see how many more discs of yours the indy stores order/see you already know I out rap'em, on the low we out-work, out-think and out-class'em"