Article by Jamar Thrasher @jdthrasher
Solemn and contempt, Brother Ali continued to link arms with the people around him despite warnings from the police. There was a family that needed help saving their house, the crowd told police. The crowd— which had wrapped completely around the house –held firm. No one was going anywhere without a fight.
Brother Ali ended up getting arrested during this protest, one of many held in conjunction with the “Occupy Homes” movement, a faction under the nationwide “Occupy” movements. The “Homes” movement aims to speak for people who are at risk of losing their homes due to predatory banking tactics. According to reports, the home went into foreclosure in 2011, when the mortgage’s original holder, PNC Bank, wouldn’t accept an online mortgage payment from the homeowners. As punishment, the bank imposed a fine of two months payment. The family was unable to pay; thus the home went into foreclosure.
“At every level of the housing crisis money has been made,” Ali says, during a phone interview, reflecting on that day.
On his next album, “Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color,” to be released September 18 and produced entirely by Jake One, Ali promises to call attention to the ills of society and says everyone has been affected by the greed and bloodlust of the world’s top entities. The only way to beat the system is for all people to band together, he says.
“We’re in a moment of extraordinary crisis. So much of our culture tells us to focus on our own personal lives and not what’s going on in society,” Brother Ali says.
One of the singles, “Stop the Press,” is about the unpredictable music business and the toll it took on Ali’s personal life.
Ali raps: “Never would have guessed a taste of success/ would have been the first time I ever got depressed/I know I’m blessed/ I just couldn’t adjust.”
To clear his head, Ali, a devout Muslim, made his first pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy land of Islam. The trip was one of self-discovery and a sacred milestone in his religious life.
Born into a Christian family, Ali converted to Islam as an adult. He was drawn to the teachings of the religion’s leaders, citing Malcolm X as a main influence. Ali was also captivated by the universal love the religion has for all human beings.
“It made me know that a human being is precious and human beings are qualified to a certain level of dignity. We believe that we’re created excellent and if everything stays natural we’ll live out that excellent potential,” Ali says.
Ali says Muslims are all about world unity and peace, detracting the negative views held by some Americans. He does not discriminate against people who believe differently than him, but he admitted that he shares a special camaraderie with fellow Muslim rappers, such as Freeway, Beanie Sigel, Mos Def, Ali from A Tribe Called Quest, and Lupe Fiasco, this time detracting stereotypes that rappers are always ensnarled in beef.
It is obvious Brother Ali is not like many rappers. Instead of jumping at every opportunity to feature on another artist’s project, he contemplates the worth (“Making music is a sacred thing”). Brother Ali also isn’t afraid to admit that most rappers, he included, are not doing as well financially as people might think.
However, the most striking quality of Brother Ali is his storytelling ability. He tells both sides of a story, often telling the side that goes unheard. An example of this is the title of “Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color” and the cover art which shows him praying in Muslim garb while kneeling on an American flag.
“Money drives the modern world. The economic climate that we’re in determines the relationships with our health and spirituality. There’s a lot of despair and a lot of death,” he explains. “Dreaming in color means people are causing connections between people. In that there’s hope,” Ali continues.
“I’ve seen people work together who’ve I’ve never seen work together or talk together. I have seen middle-aged white families go to jail over saving a Mexican’s house. We need to pick up on that energy,” Ali says.
Check out more on Brother Ali on Rhymesayers Entertainment’s website here: http://rhymesayers.com/brotherali