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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Not your typical rapper

    Brother Ali, a blind albino rapper from Minneapolis, is playing an all-ages show at Club Congress on Saturday.
    Brother Ali, a blind albino rapper from Minneapolis, is playing an all-ages show at Club Congress on Saturday.

    There’s an old folk tale in which a man purchases a bull calf. From the time it is young, he carries it every day and as it grows he becomes stronger – by the time it’s an adult he can lift the bull without a second thought.

    This is how Minneapolis hip-hop artist Brother Ali says he learned to rap. From school cafeterias to house parties, clubs, and now guest appearances on shows like “”Late Night with Conan O’Brien,”” Ali has been proving his worth through rhymes since he was seven years old.

    His show at Club Congress on Saturday is sure to be a testament to that, as he performs songs from his newest album, The Undisputed Truth.

    Produced with Ant of the band Atmosphere, his new songs are angry and dissenting as ever, ranging from attacks on the American government to accounts of his recent homelessness and divorce. And there is no shortage of the standard braggadocio, including a declaration that he is a cross between Howard Stern and Howard Zinn.

    “”I work harder (than other rappers) for the attention that you give me,”” he said, describing his song “”Take Me Home,”” in which he compares his work to that of blues legends Syl Johnson and Son House. “”It’s about my confidence,”” he said.

    “”When I was growing up I knew I didn’t fit the image of what an MC was supposed to be,”” he said. Ali is albino and legally blind, and many of his lyrics speak of the frustration of always having to fight for respect from his peers, despite his roots in the black community.

    But really, he has proven himself long ago, and he scoffs at the suggestion that his race made it more difficult. “”It was hard for everyone,”” he said. “”Hip-hop used to be a lot more underground – not everyone could just rap the way they do now.””

    Not everyone can rap the way Ali does, either. On possibly the most charged of his new tracks, “”Uncle Sam Goddamn,”” he boils with rage over the imperialism, laziness and greed of said Sam’s empire, calling it “”an addict with a billion-dollar-a-week kill-brown-people habit.”” Between the subtle blues harmonica loop and the accompanying video, featuring a montage of slave scenes, Ali momentarily veers away from ego and straight into protest territory.

    Heavily influenced by pioneers like KRS-One, Ali is technically probably as preachy as his predecessors, but what he has to say is so honest and truly self-revealing, one can’t help but stop everything and listen.

    Brother Ali’s performances are ultimately about connection, which is what keeps him going – and the fans coming – in a genre often dominated by alienating dis. Something about music, he said, allows him to share “”human elements – emotions, passions, joy”” with other people.

    Brother Ali performs Saturday at 6 p.m. with special guests Abstract Rude, BK-One and Toki Wright at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Tickets for this all-ages show are $13 in advance and $15 at the door.

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