#16: Brother Ali - Checking Dominant Culture, Living With Self-Love
“I have these periods where I just live life and grow. I explore new things about life, and when I’m ready, I make an album about that.”
Brother Ali (@BrotherAli) is best known as a hip-hop artist with the local record label Rhymesayers Entertainment, but those who only know Ali for his music are missing out on the entirety of this fascinating human being.
“Music is not my undying love. It is one of many,” he said.
Ali and I spent nearly three hours together and he spoke intelligently about several topics that spanned well beyond music. He expanded on his ideas and experiences that we normally sample in his well-crafted lyrics. Some of his more controversial songs have pointed harsh criticisms in the direction of the United States, dominant culture, and men. However, Ali notes that he never critiques a group that he is not apart of.
“My critique is always in the mirror,” he said.
Ali spoke about the importance of truth and reality. This was on full display when he provided an in-depth analysis of what he calls the myth of black pathology and also details his view on white mythology.
Self-love was another reoccurring message throughout our conversation. Ali unpacks this large concept using Minnesotans as a case study and explains why he believes the Gopher State struggles to achieve true self-love.
There were many other fascinating and entertaining portions of this episode with which I could probably write a series of books given the amount of content we covered. If you’re at all interested in the person that is Brother Ali, then this podcast is worth your time.
Some topics mentioned and discussed:
Rapping at his grandmother’s funeral at age 8
Settling in the Twin Cities at the age of 15
Converting to Islam as a teenager
The hip-hop scene in the 90’s
The many players that make Rhymesayers thrive (
How the ego starts wars, not religion
The theme for his upcoming album
“It’s a Brother Ali type of day”
The movie Rosewood
Berry Gordy and the creation of Motown
Brother Ali's favorites related to the twin cities:
Favorite Public Space
Favorite Annual Event:
Most Fascinating Person You Know
State of the Union Message
- There are many beautiful things about Minnesota that should be celebrated and appreciated, but there’s also a very deep denial about our guilt complex and we’re terrified to face that truth.
Disclaimer - this is an attempt to paraphrase Ali’s 25-minute answer. It is not a direct quote. Please listen to the entire audio to understand his full message.