Brother Ali

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Brother Ali
Brother Ali.jpeg
Brother Ali performing at SoundFest, June 11, 2011
Background information
Birth name Jason Newman
Born (1977-07-30) July 30, 1977 (age 37)
Origin Madison, Wisconsin, United States
Genres Hip hop
Occupation(s) Rapper, producer
Years active 1998–present
Labels Rhymesayers Entertainment/Warner Music Group
Website www.brotherali.com

Ali Newman (born Jason Newman, July 30, 1977), better known by his stage name Brother Ali, is an American hip hop artist, community activist and member of the Rhymesayers Entertainment hip hop collective.[1]

Early Life[edit]

Ali was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and spent his early childhood moving throughout Midwestern United States (mostly in Michigan). Ali's family settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1992, and he attended Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, Minnesota.[2] He began rapping at age eight, in the midst of traveling from place to place with his family. Ali was first recorded rapping at age 13.

Ali converted to Islam at age 15 and followed Imam Warith Deen Mohammed. During this time, Ali was selected to join a group of students on a Malaysian study tour, in which they explored the way that a more liberal Islamic society could peacefully coexist with different religions.[2]

While Brother Ali's family is white, he has often described a childhood marked by cruelty and exclusion by his white classmates as a result of his physical abnormality. He has often explained that, from an early age, he felt "most at home amongst African Americans."[3]

Appearances[edit]

Television[edit]

On August 13, 2007, Brother Ali appeared on The Late Late Show and performed his single "Uncle Sam Goddamn" from The Undisputed Truth. On October 19, 2007, Ali appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and performed "Take Me Home" from The Undisputed Truth.[4] On December 16, 2009 Ali appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and was featured with late night band The Roots. ...

Podcast[edit]

On July 24, 2013, Brother Ali appeared on the Maximum Fun podcast Judge John Hodgman as an "Expert Witness".[5]

Inspirations[edit]

Brother Ali has said many times in interviews that he finds much of his inspiration in the late 1980s rappers of the golden age of hip hop, especially KRS-One and Rakim. In the track "Get Up Stand Up" by Public Enemy, in which Brother Ali features, he says 'I was raised by the Enemy, and ever since then that's been my identity', suggesting that he also sees Public Enemy as an inspiration.[6][7]

Controversy[edit]

Main article: Uncle Sam Goddamn

Brother Ali has been under pressure from the recording industry due to lyrics from his song "Uncle Sam Goddamn", claiming creative interference from "somebody I don't wanna name, but some of you probably has their cell phones." The unnamed corporation ultimately withdrew its sponsorship of Ali, causing him to truncate parts of his 2007 tour.[8][9] Furthermore, on the song "Second Time Around" with Benzi and Wale, Ali makes references to being kicked off a tour followed by the line "Verizon dissed me too, cuz I was too political." The song is notably critical of the United States government, with accusations that the political system is addicted to war.

Personal life[edit]

Ali's son Faheem is from his first marriage, and remarried in 2008.[citation needed] The song "Real as Can Be" off his EP The Truth Is Here says he also has a daughter on the way. In the song "Fresh Air" on his September 2009 album Us, he goes on to say "Just got married last year/ treated so good that it ain't even fair/ already got a boy now the baby girl's here/ Bought us a house like the Berenstain Bears."[citation needed]

Ali was born with the rare genetic condition of albinism, a disorder characterized by a lack of pigment in skin, eyes, and hair. Brother Ali often makes fun of the media's constant urge to mention his condition in the first lines of their reviews or newspaper articles. He is also legally blind which is caused by his albinism.[10]

Activism[edit]

Social Justice

Many of Ali's themes of social justice are incorporated into his lyricism, though he also takes part in activism outside of the music. He primarily focuses on themes of racial inequality, slavery, and critiquing the United States government, though overarching themes of hope, acceptance, and rising from sorrow are also often present. Much attention was garnered through Ali's album, The Undisputed Truth (Brother Ali album), as it heavy criticized much about our nations political system. After the music video for Uncle Sam Goddamn was released in 2007, it quickly gained much attention, and shortly after, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security froze a money transfer to his record label.

Protest

In 2012, Ali was arrested along with thirty seven others while occupying the home of a Minneapolis resident to fight the houses foreclosure. the goal of the protestors was to block the eviction of the family through their assembly and occupancy, though their efforts were ultimately futile. Though unsuccessful, Ali then used his celebrity as a platform to discuss these events, and bring them to the minds of his audience.

Privilege

Ali deals heavily with the notion of privilege, and focuses on bringing to mind issues that are all to often ignored within our society. He stated in an interview with Yes! (U.S. magazine) magazine that "The best definition of privilege I’ve heard is anything you don't have to wrestle with, that you don't have to think about". Ali feels a certain obligation to act politically, as he is unwilling to sit aside after experiencing all he has. He states, "I feel like that's my job, and I feel like within the last few years I fully woke up to that, found the courage to understand that, and stepped out like that". He is fully committed to administering a change, as is evident from his lyrics.

Gay Rights

Ali has pronounced that many of his own heroes are gay, and he holds unwavering respect and appreciation for the gay community. He publicly spoke out against hip-hop artist Tyler, The Creator, for his continuous and unapologetic use of the word "faggot" within his music. Tyler argued that since he has a close homosexual friend, he is entitled to use the word as frequently as he wished, and furthermore stated that words are simply words and lack any real meaning. Ali wrote a long thoughtful letter to the fellow hip-hop artist in attempt to educate him on the subject, as well as address the current state of our nation's youth. He concluded his letter stating, "If you really love your friend and all these kids are listening to you say this word over and over again, even if that's just a piece of paper on the bonfire, you're adding to the fire". Ali's response was published on the Huffington Post in September 2012.

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Year Album Peak chart positions[11][12]
US US R&B US Rap US Indie
2000 Rites of Passage
2003 Shadows on the Sun
  • Released: May 2, 2003
  • Label: Rhymesayers
  • Format: CD, Digital Download
2007 The Undisputed Truth
  • Released: April 10, 2007
  • Label: Rhymesayers, Warner Music Group
  • Format: CD, Digital Download
69 48 6
2009 Us
  • Released: September 22, 2009
  • Label: Rhymesayers, Warner Music Group
  • Format: CD, Digital Download
56 29 14 6
2012 Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color
  • Released: September 18, 2012
  • Label: Rhymesayers, Warner Music Group
  • Format: CD, Digital Download
44 6 5 10
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.

EPs[edit]

Year Album Peak chart positions[11][12]
US US R&B US Indie
2004 Champion EP
  • Released: May 11, 2004
  • Label: Rhymesayers
  • Format: CD, Digital Download
2009 The Truth Is Here
  • Released: March 12, 2009
  • Label: Rhymesayers, Warner Music Group
  • Format: CD, Digital Download
119 69 18
2012 The Bite Marked Heart
  • Released: February 13, 2012
  • Label: Rhymesayers
  • Format: Free Digital Download
2013 Left in the Deck
  • Released: September 5, 2013
  • Label: Rhymesayers
  • Format: Free Digital Download
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.

Guest appearances[edit]

List of non-single guest appearances, with other performing artists, showing year released and album name
Title Year Other artist(s) Album
"What Time Is It?" 2001 Musab Respect the Life
"Cats Van Bags" 2003 Atmosphere Seven's Travels
"Rain Water" 2005 N/A You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having Bonus disc
"The Truth" 2008 Jake One, Freeway White Van Music
"So Wrong" 2010 Joell Ortiz, Talib Kweli, Jean Grae Me, Myself & I (Part Two)
"Damn Right" 2011 Statik Selektah, Joell Ortiz Population Control
"Maybe It's Just Me" Classified Handshakes and Middle Fingers
"Civil War" Immortal Technique, Killer Mike, Chuck D The Martyr
"Get Up Stand Up" 2012 Public Enemy Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp
"The Dangerous Three" 2013 R.A. the Rugged Man, Masta Ace Legends Never Die

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Brother Ali". Rhymesayers Entertainment. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Neda Ulaby, Brother Ali: An Honest Act Of Worship, NPR, October 05, 2009, accessed April 8, 2013.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ "Late Night with Conan O'Brien". tv.com. 
  5. ^ MaxFun Intern (24 July 2013). "Judge John Hodgman Episode 120: Halal In The Family". Maximum Fun. Retrieved 2013-07-24. 
  6. ^ Rhymesayers Entertainment. "Brother Ali Biography". Retrieved May 23, 2007. 
  7. ^ Brother Ali on Myspace
  8. ^ Nuntida. Brother Ali interview with Barber Shop Hip Hop. YouTube. 
  9. ^ Brother Ali. Truth Is - Live in Portland. YouTube. 
  10. ^ Ulaby, Neda (October 5, 2009). "Brother Ali: An Honest Act Of Worship". NPR. Archived from the original on February 28, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b "Brother Ali: Chart History". Billboard.com. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  12. ^ a b "Brother Ali: Billboard Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 

13. Hess, Mickey. "Volume II: The Midwest, The South, and Beyond." Hip Hop in America: A Regional Guide. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2010. 368-70. Print.

14. Jones, D. Marvin. "Part 1: Racing Culture/Erasing Race." Fear of a Hip-hop Planet: America's New Dilemma. Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2013. 33-39. Print.

15. Tepper, Fabien. "Rapper Brother Ali on Privilege, Hope, and Other People's Stories." YES! Magazine. Positive Futures Network, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

16. Ali, Brother. "The Intersection of Homophobia and Hip Hop: Where Tyler Met Frank." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 07 Sept. 2012. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

External links[edit]