Brother Ali

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Brother Ali
Day of Dignity 2012 — Brother Ali 8065293995 o.jpg
Brother Ali performing in 2012
Background information
Birth name Jason Douglas Newman
Born (1977-07-30) July 30, 1977 (age 39)
Origin Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
Genres Hip hop
Occupation(s) Rapper, producer
Years active 1998–present
Labels Rhymesayers Entertainment/Warner Music Group
Associated acts

Ali Douglas Newman (born Jason Douglas 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 was born with albinism, a disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. He spent his early childhood moving throughout the 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 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]

Brother Ali is of Caucasian and Puerto Rican descent."[3]



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.


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


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]

Personal life[edit]

Ali has a son, Faheem, from his first marriage, and his music frequently addresses his role as a father, parent, and husband. Ali remarried in 2006. 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."

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.[7]

In an article entitled The Art of Mourning in America, Brother Ali said his favorite food is Sweet Potato Pie. The interview was conducted during the Month of Ramadan and Ali performed a freestyle: “life long Starvation every month is Ramadan, walk in the crib and I'm surprised that the power's on.”[8]


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, as it heavily criticized much about the United States' 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.[9]


In 2012, Ali was arrested along with thirty-seven others while occupying the home of a Minneapolis resident to fight the house's foreclosure. The goal of the protesters was to block the eviction of the family through their assembly and occupancy, but they were unsuccessful. Ali ended up using his celebrity as a platform to discuss these events, and bring them to the attention of his audience.[10]


Ali deals heavily with the notion of privilege, and focuses on bringing to mind issues that are all too 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".


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.


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
"Without My Existence" Unknown Prophets World Premier
"Cats Van Bags" 2003 Atmosphere Seven's Travels
"The Truth" 2008 Jake One, Freeway White Van Music
"Dreamin'" 2009 Gift of Gab, Del the Funky Homosapien Escape 2 Mars
"Caged Bird, Pt. 1" Zion I The Take Over
"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
"Tragic" Grieves Together/Apart
"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
"Illuminotme" Bambu, Odessa Kane Sun of a Gun
"Live and Let Go" 2014 Hilltop Hoods Walking Under Stars
"Understand" 2015 Talib Kweli, 9th Wonder, Planet Asia Indie 500
"Nardwuar" 2016 The Evaporators Ogopogo Punk


  1. ^ "Brother Ali". Rhymesayers Entertainment. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Brother Ali: An Honest Act Of Worship". Retrieved 2015-04-02. 
  3. ^ [1] Archived December 4, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "Late Night with Conan O'Brien". Retrieved 2015-04-02. 
  5. ^ MaxFun Intern (24 July 2013). "Judge John Hodgman Episode 120: Halal In The Family". Maximum Fun. Retrieved 2013-07-24. 
  6. ^ "Brother Ali Biography". Retrieved May 23, 2007. 
  7. ^ Ulaby, Neda (October 5, 2009). "Brother Ali: An Honest Act Of Worship". NPR. Archived from the original on February 29, 2012. 
  8. ^ Muhammad Ali, Queen (19 February 2013). The Art of Mourning in America (#3 ed.). Nation19 Magazine. pp. 44–46. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  9. ^ Tepper, Fabien. "Rapper Brother Ali on Privilege, Hope, and Other People's Stories". YES! Magazine. Retrieved 2016-04-04. 
  10. ^ "Local Rapper Brother Ali Arrested At Occupy Protest « CBS Minnesota". 2012-06-22. Retrieved 2015-04-02. 
  11. ^ a b "Brother Ali: Chart History". Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  12. ^ a b "Brother Ali: Billboard Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]