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ARTS+CULTURE

MUSIC

KNOWLEDGE, BEATS RHYMES

Brother Ali mixes

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Christopher Allen Montana Kaimin Heady hip-hop fans have had this weekend circled on their calendars for weeks. Brother Ali stops in Missoula on Friday night, and when he picks up a mic, dropping knowledge is more important than dropping beats. The Minnesota-based emcee is well known for his political acumen, and built a reputation for consistently speaking out through his rhymes against poverty, elitism, and the fetishization and exploitation of black culture by white Americans, particularly corporations. His experiences and physical limitations as an albino — the rapper is legally blind — as well as his perspective as a converted Muslim prominently interweave into his rhymes. Though his music might be lyrically focused, that doesn’t mean the hooks take a back seat. For his recent release, “Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color,” Ali enlist-

Montana Kaimin Friday, March 22, 2013

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ed the knob-twisting talents of Jake One, a Seattle-based producer. He’s a self-professed “perfect beat writer,” and spent time behind the board for 50 Cent, De La Soul, Mary J. Blige and the enigmatic DOOM. On his most recent album, released on Rhymesayers, Brother Ali takes the time to expand beyond race and money. Ali uses the track “Won More Hit,” to take a modern jab at the music industry and their hypocritical outrage over people downloading music illegally while much of the music business foundation is built on the theft of music and ideas, particularly from black Americans. Brother Ali recently spoke and performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. His two-hour presentation included a lecture,  as well as a live performance of his controversial song “Uncle Sam Goddamn,” which, by his own account, has gained him an uncomfortable level of scrutiny

from the U.S. government. He’s recently worked with fellow hip-hop activist legends Public Enemy, and wrote a song with influential philosopher and activist Cornel West. He often cites influential thinkers like Tom Wise and James Baldwin for their influence in his lyrics and their sharp criticism of racism, elitism, and homophobia in American culture. He even took a trip to the slammer for protesting the foreclosure of the homes in the Minneapolis area as part of the Occupy Homes movement last year. Although Brother Ali can sell out big cities like Chicago, he still likes to play smaller venues because of the lack of an enlarged, invasive entertainment industry and dominant nightlife. This is Brother Ali’s first stop in Missoula since 2009, when he played a set at the The Badlander, and the second since he played former music hub The Loft in 2007. christopher.allen@umontana.edu @ChrisBrianAllen

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Photo courtesy of Rhymesayers

Brother Ali performs at Stage 112 in the Elks Lodge on Friday night. Tickets are $25. All ages.

Brother Ali Preview - March 22, 2013