A new segment on In My Ear! On the occasional-to-maybe-regular Thursday, I’ll be digging into my archive and featuring tracks that were in my ear (and on my annual playlist) a decade ago. First up, the year was 2010…..
Brother Ali. This man right here is one of my favorite rappers, musicians, artists, poets, thinkers, and human beings.
And, of all the #10YearThrowbackThursday tracks I’ve featured thus far, this is hardest to get my head around that it came out ten years ago. Ali’s style and flow from then still feel so fresh now. And, unfortunately, all of the topics he raps on (the complicated nuances of racial and cultural identity; persecution of Black people; persecution of poor people; politics and power; etc.) remain pervasive and insidious today.
The Preacher is one of the standout tracks for me off the record Us, Ali’s fourth studio album when it came out. It’s an album chock-full of stories. One of Ali’s endearing gifts is his clarity as a storyteller. He populates his raps with richly-wrought characters and imbues his music with an abiding humanity.
But, as any good storyteller will tell you, it’s all in the delivery. And, Ali delivers straight fire — to me, he is a perennially underrated talent who can go toe-to-toe with any rapper in sheer skill, freestyle, and vocal dexterity. On The Preacher, he sets asides the stories, makes himself the subject, comes out of the gate hot, and doesn’t let up for the entire 3:23.
Y'all been violating the rapper code/ Can't just walk around here acting bold/ Got to earn respect to brag and boast/ Skills get you that not swag and clothes/ Chin might get tapped, I crack your nose/ Fall back before y'all collapse/ Me, I'm an artist all a y'all are acts
Man, I wore this track out.
Brother Ali is marking the anniversary of Us as well with a special edition vinyl you can order. You can also find him touring (well, he was before and expects to be back out after the COVID-19 pandemic) on the 2019 release of his seventh studio album, Secrets & Escapes.Us by Brother Ali