Brother Ali lived for years in the comfortable place between the big time and obscurity. For the past 19 years, he has been an integral part of the socially conscious hip-hop movement. His rhymes in his new album Secrets & Escapes add another chapter to his anthology.
He will bring this new record to Boise's Olympic Venue Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20-$25. Brother Ali will be joined by Evidence, and Marlon Craft.
In his opening track, "Abu Enzo," Ali chronicles the trials of growing up with violence and resisting temptations. He also makes reference to his blindness, in navigating violence without being able to actually see the signs of it.
Brother Ali, born Jason Douglas Newman, flew to Venice, California from his home in Minneapolis on three occasions to create the album with artist Evidence in a garage, according to a release from Brother Ali's label, Rhymesayers. The process laid out by Evidence was a callback to the early days of hip-hop. He cut analog beats on a two-track; this way Brother Ali couldn't alter the beat, he simply had to rhyme as the words came to him. The result is an honest and emotional record that flows naturally from track to track.
Evidence, while mostly creating beats, does rap on one track, "Red." The album also features appearances from Pharoahe Monch, C.S. Armstrong and Talib Kweli.
Between cutting beats and writing rhymes, Brother Ali and Evidence would find inspiration in their own ways. Evidence would smoke marijuana and ponder his next move, while Brother Ali would pray on it.
He converted to Islam when he was a teenager, and it's a significant part of his identity that he raps about often. Another significant part of Brother Ali's identity is his albinism, which also causes his blindness. While it is a significant part of him, he often chides people who choose to mention it before his music and lyricism.