Brother Ali
The Undisputed Truth


3.5
great

Review

by Tyler Munro EMERITUS
April 25th, 2007 | 27 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Brother Ali returns with the help of Ant and releases a solid, soulful hip-hop album. What it lacks in originality it makes up for in sheer quality, but some more variation would have been nice.

Let's get this over with. Brother Ali is albino.

On 2003's "Shadows on the Sun", the Minnesota born rapper presented the issue with the track Forest Whitaker. Used as the anthem for anyone who's ever been treated differently, Ali uses the less than stellar appearance of actor Forest Whitaker along side his pale complexion. While the 45 year old actor may not be blessed with the looks of Denzel, his talent and perseverance led him to success. Such is the case with Brother Ali. His complexion is definitely a conversation piece –to disregard this is plain ignorance – and as such, it's a definite selling point. Luckily the fact remains that Brother Ali is good at what he does.

"The Undisputed Truth" is the long awaited follow up to the breakout 2003 album mentioned in the above paragraph. Once again, Ali decides to pair up with Rhymesayers mega-producer Ant, though you have to wonder if there's even a choice anymore. Based on this, one can almost instantly expect crafty beats based on soul samples and catchy hooks. You can also, based on the presence of Ant, expect that while the production will be essentially solid, it'll also be more of the same. If you guessed this, you'd be 98% correct. There is one curveball, and it comes with Truth Is, the album's lead single. Truth Is is a reggae-driven track that, when paired with Brother Ali's relatively aggressive (not to be confused with harsh) flow, makes for a captivating and highly enjoyable listen. As always, the production remains relatively unassuming, allowing the focus to remain on the MC, much like with Atmosphere, Ant's main project. Much of the production also seems to be fairly guitar driven, primarily in bluesy rhythms.

If you haven't heard Brother Ali before, imagine a well versed battle rapper with an affinity for personal lyrics, often relating his own experiences and stories to religion (Ali is a practising Muslim) and Government. All of this is delivered with his gravel-soaked, powerful voice.

"The Undisputed Truth" is an album Brother Ali put himself into, quite literally. It's an album he truly believes in. Ali fought his way to where he is, and even still, has been forced to deal with a lot; family drama, political qualms and even reported bouts of homelessness. On Walking Away, Ali describes the falling out with the mother of his child atop bluesy guitar and simple whistling. On Faheem, the track which directly follows Walking Away, guitar carries the personal issues further. Faheem, his son, is obviously expected to listen to the track once he's old enough, as it plays out like a letter, asking him to forgive his father for any bad times, all the while painting a picture of their family situation. Imagine a legitimate take on the 50 or so tracks Eminem has recorded in the same vein.

On Letter from the Government, he discusses his distaste for the current US political climate by describing a letter he received from the Army Reserves asking him to go to Iraq. As with "Watcha Got", a track that has Ali describing the current state of hip-hop, these are not new topics. That's a fault that carries over as a whole with the album, both thematically and musically.

It's not to say the music isn't solid, it's that the ideas presented are nothing new. The production and beats are reminiscent of basically anything and everything Ant has ever done (I could have sworn I heard remnants of Atmosphere's Blamegame at one point), and the lyrics, while excellent, are nothing revolutionary. While it's obvious that Ant and Ali are familiar with each other's strengths, I can't help but wonder what could have been had they branched out a little more.

It's hard to say if "The Undisputed Truth" can stand head-to-head against "Shadows on the Sun". Luckily, there's enough quality to be found to make comparisons a moot point. In many ways it's more of the same, but it does seem to improve upon the formula ever-so-slightly. Still, "Shadows on the Sun" will probably remain on top. Solid stuff as a whole, but there's still something missing. I think the word I'm looking for is 'variation'.



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user ratings (100)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Slaapkamers
April 25th 2007


596 Comments


Aw, no Johnny Winter guest spot?

Tyler
Emeritus
April 25th 2007


7926 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

No, but I did initially write a huge pre-review blurb about Yellowman and why he's awesome.

JAD
April 25th 2007


200 Comments


I just got into this guy, I love his lyrics and he's got great flow. Great review.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2007


2675 Comments


Sounds intriguing because I dig Atmosphere, but I don't know if I'd like this as much. Good review, though, for sure.

Tyler
Emeritus
April 25th 2007


7926 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You'd pretty much definitely love this. It's stronger than anything Atmosphere has done in the last few years, and Ali is probably a better lyricist.

I do prefer Slug, just because he has a really awesome ability in that he can create and drive melodies using his voice, as opposed to relying heavily on Ant.

I'd recommend checking it out.

CushMG15
April 25th 2007


1802 Comments


Really good review.
I saw him live back in 2000 with Atmosphere and I wasn't very impressed at all. I can't say that I've heard any studio stuff from him, but you've persuaded me to search and give him another chance.

Tyler
Emeritus
April 25th 2007


7926 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Being that he's both a battle rapper and rather loud, I can imagine his live show being pretty "shouty".

CushMG15
April 25th 2007


1802 Comments


Yeah, I guess you could say that. But even despite that, he did a relatively horrible job of connecting with the crowd.
Albeit that I judge hip hop a bit differently than other genres, if something doesn't grab me when I see it live, then there's a really good chance that it won't through my stereo.
Would you recommend that I start here?

Tyler
Emeritus
April 25th 2007


7926 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's not really a big deal if you get this or Shadows On The Sun, they're pretty much equal.

Plus, when you saw him, he didn't actually have an album out. That might have contributed to it.

CushMG15
April 25th 2007


1802 Comments


Well that probably would've helped. Thanks dude and again, good review.

The Jungler
April 25th 2007


4827 Comments


Wait, is this guy blind? I think I read that somewhere. Good review anyway, sounds pretty cool. Atmosphere is good.

Tyler
Emeritus
April 25th 2007


7926 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nah, he's not blind. He suffers from albinism but that's it.

tdhinatx
April 26th 2007


40 Comments


i saw him live at a sxsw show with mf doom, eyedea and atmosphere, prolly 2003.

to be honest, him and eyedea blew atmosphere and mf doom out the water.

Wish
April 26th 2007


262 Comments


I'm looking forward to listening to this. Shadows On The Sun was spectacular.

smokersdieyounger
April 28th 2007


672 Comments


I really want this record, very good review. Although I havent heard atmosphere and didnt know how to compare the two.

Iai
Emeritus
June 19th 2007


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Great hip-hop + entirely convincing non-dogmatic spirituality = success.

Seriously, I love this album. Best hip-hop record of '07 so far in my eyes.This Message Edited On 06.21.07

Tyler
Emeritus
June 19th 2007


7926 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Have you heard the new Pharoahe Monch? I think it might beat this, if only because I think Pharoahe is a far better lyricist (but not so great on the spelling).

Iai
Emeritus
June 19th 2007


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Nah, I haven't got it yet.

The new Talib would be right up there if it weren't so long.

samthebassman
July 17th 2007


2164 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Solid album, a bit repetitive though.

songwriter67
April 10th 2008


48 Comments


Talib, Pharohe Monch, and Brother Ali all had great albums in 07, but they probably won't have new ones until at least 2010.



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