Artist – Brother Ali
Years Active – 1990s-Present
Notable Album – Shadows on the Sun
Sample Rhyme (from the track “Uncle Sam Goddamn”):
“Smoke and mirrors, stripes and stars
Stolen for the cross in the name of God
Bloodshed, genocide, rape and fraud
Writ into the pages of the law good lord
The Cold Continent latch key child
Ran away one day and starting acting foul
King of where the wild things are daddy’s proud
Because the Roman Empire done passed it down”
This contains another pretty persistent theme: those rappers who are “other” — either racially or politically or economically or otherwise — usually end up producing the most compelling stuff. Beginning well behind the starting line only compels these rappers to work harder and make something more exceptional.
Brother Ali understands this well, being both albino and Muslim. His album Shadows on the Sun is an under-appreciated gem of ’00s rap. His lyricism alone would put him near the top if this list were ranked.
Like his Rhymesayers label-mate P.O.S., Brother Ali focuses a keen eye on social and political issues, and has spent a good chunk of his career lambasting Bush-era America. It’s not surprising that such subject matter might not sell an insane amount of records — hence why you probably have never heard of Brother Ali — which only makes the Wisconsin native’s career all the more impressive.