Minnesota’s Twin Cities have bred some of hip hop’s most progressive and intellectual emcees in the past decades. Best known for embracing his albino and Muslim heritage and discussing his strong political sentiments, Brother Ali is certainly no exception. On his latest studio album Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, Ali takes to the mic to further magnify his own tribulations, spiritual commitments, and politically-driven thoughts. The album, which dropped this past Tuesday (9/18), was produced entirely by none other than Ali’s longtime companion Jake One.
Prior to Rhymesayer’s debut of Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, hip hop site DJBooth provided fans the opportunity to learn even more about the artist, asking for submissions of questions to be answered by Ali himself. In this interview, Ali elaborates on all things from the current state of hip hop music to his personal thoughts on Lupe Fiasco to the 2012 election. Check out the full interview below.
When and why did he start rapping? What made him decide he wanted to pursue a musical career?” – waist jump
Brother Ali: “I started rapping when I was seven years old, and my first show was my grandmother’s funeral when I was eight-years-old. I’ve never tried to do anything else. I guess if I think about it, I did try to be a Muslim minister for a little while. That didn’t last very long though, so I’ve wanted to be a musician my entire life.”
“How did you make yourself sound comfortable on the mic? Like, when it comes to your vocal projection and general delivery; making sure you don’t sound too nonchalant or trying too hard, etc.” – CT
Brother Ali: “I think it just takes a lot of practice. Everyone starts out trying to sound like whoever their favorite artist is. We get so wrapped up in other people’s way of doing things that they become our meter for what we should be doing. After doing something over and over again, hopefully we work our influences out of our system and our real selves can shine through. Eventually your real self is going to come out. There’s no substitute for experience. They still don’t have an app for that. Ha ha.”
“How was it working with Jake One on this new record? How is it different from working with Ant?” – Greg Bokee
Brother Ali: “Ant really helps me focus on being myself, he treated me like me my story and what I had to say was important. And the key is that he made me believe it. Nobody can ever give me that training again now that I’ve got it. Jake gave me opportunities to write in different ways, to flow in different ways, and to think in different ways. Anthony’s music is a lot more about the mood that the instruments create. Jake’s music is a lot more centered around drums. I’m pretty sure that Anthony starts with music and then adds the drums, whereas Jake starts with the drums and then adds the music. I think you can really hear that in production.”