Within modern day hip-hop the vast majority of MCs use their podium to exhibit the diamond encrusted nugget of gold they have dangling from their neck and tell us, unrelentingly, how swag they are without necessarily possessing much lyrical competence. During the heyday of hip-hop where witty social commentary and political awareness were at the forefront of the lyrical content rappers used their influence to educate teens on empowering themselves and defying authority, but in contemporary hip-hop hubristic lyrics reign supreme over meaningful substance.
However, genuine depth is starting to resurface within the genre as politically aware hip-hop's brightest stars, Brother Ali, is back. The satin voiced rapper, who has been collecting views on Youtube by the millions and gracing stages from Coachella to Conon O'Brien, uses Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color as a platform to promote love and unity. Born during a self-imposed two month exile in Seattle, the album draws influence from the 2011 Middle Eastern uprisings, the Occupy movements that occurred worldwide and Ali's own pilgrimage to Mecca, and addresses the gaping flaws within American society and government, whilst remaining acutely optimistic about the ideal of the land of the free and the potential America has to become the nation it says it is.
The album opens with 'Letter to My Countrymen', an uplifting appeal to the American nation to join Ali in celebrating life and uniting as one, while part title track 'Mourning in America' examines the hypocrisies within society and Americas confused relationship with murder. 'Only Life I Know' deals with the institution of poverty and the autobiographical 'Stop the Press' describes Ali's progression through hip-hop, the death of his father and his albinism giving the album a personal hue on top of the buckets of social commentary.
Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color is a breath of fresh air within the politically parched genre where swag rules over substance and the completely unique voice of Ali floats above the classic beats making it not only an important album for highlighting social inadequacies, but a genuinely very rewarding listening experience that is easily accessible for listeners who aren't necessarily huge hip-hop fans. It is Brother Ali, who has been described as "one of the first great voices to emerge from the underground so far this century," who has the ability and holds the credibility and respect to pave the way for other artists to use their mantle to tackle topics and issues previously avoided by mainstream rap, which is something sorely needed to bring the artistic value and importance of the music back to what it was during the days of Public Enemy and Ice-T.