To kick off this blog in the right way, and to let anyone that happens to come across it know how I feel about hip hop, it's artists, it's labels, and it's direction I thought it appropriate to begin with a verse from a man who can put it much better than I. For anyone unfamiliar with Brother Ali at this point, let me say I feel sorry for you. You're missing out on one of the greatest voices in hip hop in the last few years. Aside from a strong, commanding voice, smooth delivery, and well-structured, insightful lyrics, Ali brings something of value to hip hop that most in the mainstream are afraid to deliver - honesty. Through a life struggle that is at the same time unique and completely common, Ali delivers his truest thoughts, feelings, and stories of his life and the world he sees around him in a way that people cannot help but relate to because, well, it's the truth. He doesn't play the tough gangster, the drug kingpin, or the pimp/player (all of them millionaires many times over) to glorify himself and try to impress his impressionable audience.
While some rappers, once exposed, may fall back on the excuse that their music is no different from watching a movie - no one believes that Al Pacino is Tony Montana - the truth is that they desperately want people to believe that what they spit is their life. They need it to validate them. Not only are they uncomfortable in their own skin, they have no idea how to translate their actual life to paper in interesting ways, so they brag and boast the same old bullshit that everyone else does because it's easy. And, with little talent, low self-esteem, and a limited vocabulary it's the only way that they can make a song.
Thankfully, Brother Ali has no problem addressing these issues in hip hop. From the rappers putting out bullshit and calling anyone not praising it a hater, to the labels taking advantage of these broke wannabe stars with no knowledge or respect for hip hop to line their own pockets, Ali points out the problem and tries to encourage people to fix it.
The following is a verse from a song he recorded recently with Wale called "2nd Time Around". If you like the style, go pick up Brother Ali's The Undisputed Truth, the best album of 2007 in my opinion. Also, check for this song on The New Deal mixtape by 10 Deep & DJ Benzi, or the Brother Ali mixtape The Rope-A-Dope. Wale's The Mixtape About Nothing is another winner from 2008 as well, by the way.
rappers can’t clap me, jackers can’t gat me
original meaning of jazzy fat nasty
I don’t bite rappers lines, I bite the captain’s arm off
I don’t throw shots in the air, I throw that Molotov,
cocktail, reservoir dog my kinda arms
ya’ll scared to get that revolution poppin off
you really got the guns you claim in a track?
then my question for you is who you aiming em at?
you complaining that the rap police caught you with a gat under the seat
misdemeanored that 20 bag of weed
but little ol’ me with the few facts that I speak
the homeland security gaffled me overseas
closed my bank account and seized my guarantee
and ya’ll are sound scanning like 100 more than me
they kickin you off tour for freakin a chick or two
Verizon dissed me too, cuz I was too political
ya’ll are all safe and shit, ya’ll are not sayin shit
you just snap your fingers and dance and make your label rich
gotta pay back that advance, so they ain’t gave you shit
this is your chance to say something and you’re wastin it
people are starvin, you talkin bout ballin
can’t think of nothin more important than that jargon
100 different ways to describe diamonds sparklin
eighty percent of kids are listenin to ya’ll shit
I heard that statistic I almost cried
never wanted so bad for 2Pac to be alive
what the fuck happened to rap when
the gangsters are scared of upsetting their industry masters?
It ain’t my place to say and I hear all that
but fuck that, I live in the hood and we need ya’ll cats
so, as soon as I hear ya’ll on some real pro-black
then I will gladly go back to my EMO rap
they say the truth don’t belong to nobody, if you see it you speak it
it would be a sin to keep it a secret
so, if I need to breathe then believe that I mean it
quit tryin to be somebody’s boss and be a leader
if it wasn’t bad enough your labels are hoeing you
you can’t even scan, your fans are downloading you
there’s no connection, so they’re not supporting you
you ain’t never shed light on nothing that they going through
we ain’t buying CDs, we’re striving to live
and these artists don’t need me, they already rich
I ain’t hatin on you – rock them shines
just remember us from time to time when you drop them lines
rappers can’t clap me, jackers can’t gat me,
original meaning of jazzy fat nasty,
busy raisin babies and livin on tour
signing off Brother Ali, sincerely yours