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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Brother Ali
The Undisputed Truth
Rhymesayers

Rating: 9/10 ?


April 11, 2007
It's been a rough four years for Brother Ali since he dropped his debut, Shadows on the Sun, in 2003. But he has come out on top. In his personal "Pursuit of Happyness," he split with his wife of 10 years (who he says tried to kill him), was homeless, and fought for custody of his son, Faheem.

Re-reading that last sentence, I realize this album could have easily been Brother Ali's version of The Marshall Mathers LP, with fantasies of locking his wife in the trunk of his car and running off with his kid. Instead, the last three tracks on The Undisputed Truth - "Walking Away," "Faheem," and "Ear to Ear" - hit much harder because of their vulnerability. In a country where most kids understand the fallout of divorce, Brother Ali provides an optimistic look at the future of his family and still manages to get in a few shots at his ex.

The bulk of the album leading up to that closing trilogy of tracks channels Ice Cube's Death Certificate and Tupac's Me Against the World. While it is clear he's inspired by KRS-ONE and Rakim, we're here to talk about the Truth, which is that Ali is actually a protégé of their protégés - and that's OK.

Like Cube and 'Pac in their best days, Brother Ali has a gift for being angry without seeming unreasonable, and political without being preachy. And like them he spits straight up, without weighing down the album with heavy metaphors or double entendres. You won't have to listen to any of these tracks twice to know what exactly it is that he's saying. But you'll want to listen to most of them more than a couple of times.

In fact, I'm prepared to defend this as hip hop's frontrunner for best album of 2007 thus far. Maybe it's because I waited to listen to The Undisputed Truth until I had a road trip that allowed me to play the album in its entirety. Listening from track 1 to 15 gives you a full picture of just exactly who Brother Ali is: an albino black man who doesn't believe in race, a Muslim who has beef with didactic religious leaders, a father who puts his son first, and - most importantly to the listener - a rapper dedicated to his craft.

In the tradition of his labelmates at Rhymesayers (Atmosphere, Eyedea and Abilities), Brother Ali makes important music, a fact which rings most true on "Uncle Sam Goddamn," which borrows the theme from Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddamn," and "Letter From the Government," which starts out with the same lines as Public Enemy's "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos." Brother Ali's contributions won't go down in history the same way as the songs of Nina Simone or P.E., but four years into the war in Iraq, they are just as relevant.

While The Undisputed Truth probably won't grab as much attention its predecessors, it should be the newest addition to rap critics' lists of classics. And that's the double truth, Ruth.

Reviewed by Taylor Loyal
The last we heard, Taylor was living in Nashville, Tennessee, home of the guitar-shaped swimming pool.

See other reviews by Taylor Loyal

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