Brother Ali: Even for a Muslim albino rapper, he stood out

  • Article by: CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 28, 2007 - 3:55 PM

2007 was the year of his audaciously autobiographical album "The Undisputed Truth"


Brother Ali, in the basement studio of his friend and DJ, BK-One.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Here are some of the many places you could have seen Minneapolis rapper Brother Ali in 2007, the year of his audaciously autobiographical album "The Undisputed Truth":

On Conan O'Brien's and Craig Ferguson's TV shows; in Rolling Stone magazine (a feature and a 3½-star review); on the Billboard album chart at No. 69 the week "Truth" debuted in April (it has since sold 43,000 copies nationally); at the cooler-than-thou Coachella music fest in California; on tour with East Coast hip-hop vets Ghostface Killah and Rakim, and in front of sold-out crowds two nights in a row at First Avenue on his own tour.

It might be more telling, though, to mention some of the places you couldn't see Minneapolis' latest underground hip-hop star this year:

Driving a car. An albino, Ali is legally blind. His uncommonly pale skin and red eyes, and the leering/jeering he's endured in his 30 years, are all addressed and dismissed in the triumphant track "Lookin' at Me Sideways."

Stepping up to the bar. A Muslim, Ali doesn't drink alcohol. That's right: One of the best-known Muslim rappers in the country now comes from the same city -- and even attends the same mosque -- as the only Muslim representative in Congress (Keith Ellison). His religion is a backdrop to such songs as "Daylight," in which he thanks Islam for helping him find an identity.

At a Citizens League meeting. Ali's mistrust of government (past and present) permeates songs such as the slavery-scarred "Uncle Sam Goddamn" and the war-torn "Letter From the Government."

Recording, rehearsing or being interviewed before 10 p.m. when he wasn't on tour. He goes to work after 6-year-old son Faheem goes to bed. The final few tracks on his second full-length CD chronicle Ali's painful divorce and custody battle, and how he rebounded from them to close in on domestic bliss.

Happy endings all around for this guy this year.

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