Brother Ali performing in 2012
|Birth name||Jason Douglas Newman|
|Born||July 30, 1977|
|Origin||Madison, Wisconsin, United States|
|Labels||Rhymesayers Entertainment/Warner Music Group|
|Associated acts||Classified, Slug, Immortal Technique, Zion I|
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.
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. 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. He was born with albinism, a disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes.
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.
Though Brother Ali is Caucasian, 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."
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. On December 16, 2009 Ali appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and was featured with late night band The Roots.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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". He is fully committed to administering a change, as is evident from his lyrics.
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 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.
|Year||Album||Peak chart positions|
|US||US R&B||US Rap||US Indie|
|2000||Rites of Passage||—||—||—||—|
|2003||Shadows on the Sun
|2007||The Undisputed Truth
|2012||Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart.|
|Year||Album||Peak chart positions|
|US||US R&B||US Indie|
|2009||The Truth Is Here
|2012||The Bite Marked Heart
|2013||Left in the Deck
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart.|
|"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|
|"Illuminotme"||Bambu, Odessa Kane||Son of a Gun|
- "Brother Ali". Rhymesayers Entertainment. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- "Brother Ali: An Honest Act Of Worship". Npr.org. Retrieved 2015-04-02.
- [dead link]
- "Late Night with Conan O'Brien". Tv.com. Retrieved 2015-04-02.
- MaxFun Intern (24 July 2013). "Judge John Hodgman Episode 120: Halal In The Family". Maximum Fun. Retrieved 2013-07-24.
- "Brother Ali Biography". Rhymesayers.com. Retrieved May 23, 2007.
- Nuntida. Brother Ali interview with Barber Shop Hip Hop. YouTube.com. Retrieved 2015-04-02.
- Brother Ali. Truth Is – Live in Portland. YouTube.com. Retrieved 2015-04-02.
- Ulaby, Neda (October 5, 2009). "Brother Ali: An Honest Act Of Worship". NPR. Archived from the original on February 28, 2012.
- Muhammad Ali, Queen (19 February 2013). The Art of Mourning in America (#3 ed.). Nation19 Magazine. pp. 44–46. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
- "Local Rapper Brother Ali Arrested At Occupy Protest « CBS Minnesota". Minnesota.cbslocal.com. 2012-06-22. Retrieved 2015-04-02.
- "Brother Ali: Chart History". Billboard.com. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- "Brother Ali: Billboard Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- 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. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 07 Sept. 2012. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.