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Thursday, May 6

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Transmission
« A Night At The (Mega Man Rock) Opera Ditch Your English: Chicago’s Latin Rock »

Concert Thu Mar 27 2008

Beyond the Niche

Brother Ali has the albino/Muslim/Midwestern rapper market covered.

The lack of pigmentation, conversion to Orthodox Islam and landlocked location are certainly interesting conversation fodder, but Brother Ali isn’t out to earn a big thumbs-up for the attributes that make him unique.

“I am what I am, I do what I do, I’m bold about it, and I believe in it,” he says. “I don’t think that that’s the focus.”

What fans are tuning into is Brother Ali’s tight lyricism and skills as an MC. After moving to Minneapolis at 15, the boy formerly known as Jason Newman — now Ali Newman — found himself knee-deep in the burgeoning Midwestern hip-hop scene. He was signed to Rhymesayers Entertainment, whose roster includes indie hip-hop heavy hitters such as Atmosphere and Eyedea and Abilities, and in 2004 released his well-received debut album, Shadows on the Sun.

A lot can happen in three years, and Brother Ali’s latest CD, The Undisputed Truth, is a chronicle of that time. His decade-long marriage crumbled. (At the mosque’s urging, he married at 17.) He gained custody of his son, but briefly found himself without a place to stay. Eventually, Brother Ali got back on track, and he’s now happily remarried.

Though Brother Ali has had difficulties in recent years, he remains proud of who he is and where he’s from.
“I think [Midwestern rappers] had to work harder to get it,” he says. “We basically learned a lot from the actual music, rather than copping off a scene, because we weren’t in New York, we weren’t in Los Angeles. We don’t make our music for the music industry. We make our music for people who listen to us.”

The Truth Is Here Tour, featuring Brother Ali with Abstract Rude, Toki Wright, and BK-One
March 31 at the Abbey Pub

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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