Brother Ali

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Brother Ali
Brother Ali-02.jpg
Background information
Birth nameJason Douglas Newman
Born (1977-07-30) July 30, 1977 (age 43)
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
OriginMinneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
GenresHip hop
Occupation(s)Rapper, producer
Years active1994–present
LabelsRhymesayers Entertainment/Warner Music Group
Associated acts
WebsiteBrotherali.com

Ali Douglas Newman (born Jason Douglas Newman, July 30, 1977), better known by his stage name Brother Ali, is an American rapper, community activist, and member of the Rhymesayers Entertainment hip hop collective.[1] He has released seven albums, four EPs, a number of singles and collaborations.

Early life[edit]

Ali was born in Madison, Wisconsin, with albinism, a disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes. He moved with his family to Michigan for a few years and then settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1992. He attended Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, Minnesota.[2] He began rapping at age eight. Ali stated that he was influenced by hip hop culture at a very early age. In an interview with Huck magazine, he stated "Ever since I was a little kid, I've always been into hip hop. I started beatboxing when I was about seven years old. Eventually, that led to me falling in love with the words." [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.

Podcasts[edit]

Brother Ali performing in 2012

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

On April 4, 2017, he appeared on The Combat Jack Show: "The Brother Ali Episode" and on October 19, 2017, on BuzzFeed's See Something Say Something podcast.

On April 5, 2018, he appeared on Max Fun's Heat Rocks podcast.

Films[edit]

Ali also appeared in Sacha Jenkins' 2018 documentary Word is Bond.

Personal life[edit]

Ali has a son, Faheem, from his first marriage, and a daughter, Stacy, from his second marriage in 2006. His music frequently addresses his role as a father, parent, and husband. The song "Real as Can Be" off his 2009 EP The Truth Is Here refers to the incoming daughter and in the song "Fresh Air" from his 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 often makes fun of the media's constant urge to mention his albinism condition in the first lines of their reviews or newspaper articles. He is also legally blind which is caused by his albinism.[6]

In an article titled "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."[7]

Religion[edit]

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 ways that a more liberal Islamic society could peacefully coexist with different religions.[2]

Ali credits his conversion to Islam to fellow hip hop musician KRS-One, whom he met during a lecture at age 13 at a local Minnesotan university. When asked about his faith, Ali stated, "KRS-One was actually the one who told me I should read Malcolm X. He assigned the autobiography of Malcolm X to me; I read it, and that's what led to me becoming a Muslim."[8]

Activism[edit]

Many of Brother Ali's themes of social justice are incorporated into his lyrics, 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 United States 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. He stated in an interview with Yes! 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."

While performing at a concert in 2015, Brother Ali endorsed Bernie Sanders for president of the United States, as a candidate in the upcoming 2016 presidential election.[11] He praised Sanders for saying "Black lives matter" at a presidential debate, a reference to the social movement.

Then in November 2019, Brother Ali performed at a Bernie Sanders rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, alongside Representative Ilhan Omar.[12]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Year Album Peak chart positions[13][14]
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, LP
2007 The Undisputed Truth
  • Released: April 10, 2007
  • Label: Rhymesayers, Warner Music Group
  • Format: CD, Digital Download, LP
69 48 6
2009 Us
  • Released: September 22, 2009
  • Label: Rhymesayers, Warner Music Group
  • Format: CD, Digital Download, LP
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, LP
44 6 5 10
2017 All the Beauty in This Whole Life
  • Released: May 5, 2017
  • Label: Rhymesayers, Warner Music Group
  • Format: CD, Digital Download, LP
125 8
2019 Secrets & Escapes
  • Released: November 1, 2019
  • Label: Rhymesayers
  • Format: CD, Digital Download, LP
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.

Mixtapes[edit]

Year Album Peak chart positions[13][14]
US US R&B US Indie
2007 Off the Record (with BK-One)
  • Released: 2007
  • Label: Rhymesayers
  • Format: CD, Digital Download
2013 Left in the Deck
  • Released: September 5, 2013
  • Label: Rhymesayers
  • Format: CS, Digital Download
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.

EPs[edit]

Year Album Peak chart positions[13][14]
US US R&B US Indie
2004 Champion EP
  • Released: May 11, 2004
  • Label: Rhymesayers
  • Format: CD, Digital Download, LP
2009 The Truth Is Here
  • Released: March 9, 2009
  • Label: Rhymesayers, Warner Music Group
  • Format: CD, Digital Download, LP
119 69 18
2012 The Bite Marked Heart
  • Released: February 13, 2012
  • Label: Rhymesayers
  • Format: CD, 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
"Without My Existence" 2000 Unknown Prophets World Premier
"What Time Is It?" 2002 Musab Respect the Life
"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
"Daughter" Prof King Gampo
"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

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Brother Ali". Rhymesayers Entertainment. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Brother Ali: An Honest Act Of Worship". Npr.org. Retrieved April 2, 2015.
  3. ^ "In hip-hop Brother Ali found faith and identity" Huck Adam Woodward Retrieved January 22, 2016
  4. ^ "Late Night with Conan O'Brien". Tv.com. Retrieved April 2, 2015.
  5. ^ MaxFun Intern (July 24, 2013). "Judge John Hodgman Episode 120: Halal In The Family". Maximum Fun. Retrieved July 24, 2013.
  6. ^ Ulaby, Neda (October 5, 2009). "Brother Ali: An Honest Act Of Worship". NPR. Archived from the original on May 4, 2012.
  7. ^ Muhammad Ali, Queen (February 19, 2013). The Art of Mourning in America (#3 ed.). Nation19 Magazine. pp. 44–46. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  8. ^ "In hip-hop Brother Ali found faith and identity" Huck Magazine Adam Woodward Retrieved January 22, 2016
  9. ^ Tepper, Fabien. "Rapper Brother Ali on Privilege, Hope, and Other People's Stories". YES! Magazine. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  10. ^ "Local Rapper Brother Ali Arrested At Occupy Protest « CBS Minnesota". Minnesota.cbslocal.com. June 22, 2012. Retrieved April 2, 2015.
  11. ^ "Brother Ali Endorses Bernie Sanders". December 15, 2015.
  12. ^ Bakst, Brian (November 3, 2019). "Sanders, Omar push 'working class' politics at rally". Mankato Free Press.
  13. ^ a b c "Brother Ali: Chart History". Billboard.com. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  14. ^ a b c "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, February 18, 2013.
  • Ali, Brother. "The Intersection of Homophobia and Hip Hop: Where Tyler Met Frank". The Huffington Post. September 7, 2012.[full citation needed]

External links[edit]