Making sense out of society’s racial and cultural confusion
Hip-Hop artist and activist Brother Ali speaks to the masses
Though hip-hop has grown globally embracing all races and ethnicities, it is dominantly viewed as an external representation of Black culture.
In the opinion of many, this growth also caused hip-hop to lose some of its cutting-edge originality and watered-down the bold, courageous and scathing social commentary that made rappers the undisputed voice of youth and activism.
Minneapolis-based rapper Brother Ali knows this very well, and with song titles like “Uncle Sam Goddamn,” “Self Taught” and “Freedom Ain’t Free,” Brother Ali’s political and ethical sensibilities are clear. His cultural roots are buried deep within the Black community who unconditionally embraced him during his youth, and the religion of Islam, which he embraced in his teens.
“I was raised by Black folks for the most part and the people who taught me to be a man—being an albino, being different or being an outcast—the people who taught me what I needed to carry myself with confidence and pride and believe that I have a place in this earth is the American Black man because nobody knows more about how to maintain that within the human soul than the American Black man.”
During his youth, he had a few White friends, but his peers were mainly Black. Those friends, and some teachers, and elders motivated him to increase his level of self-esteem and self-determination.
Like many at that time, during a point in his early teens, he was drawn to the beauty of graffiti art and the power of hip-hop culture and knew he wanted to be a part of it.
“In the mid-80’s I was attracted to just the people and the sound of the music and the graffiti art and the lifestyle but in the late ‘80s when production took a huge jump and lyricism took a huge jump, this is when men like my friend Chuck D started talking—KRS-One and Rakim—they all started telling us about people like Minister Farrakhan and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X so we started reading,” Brother Ali recalled. “Hip-hop changed not just the way we were partying, but changed the way we lived and the kind of men we wanted to grow up to be.”
The politically charged, often rebellious lyrical content—seemingly ubiquitous in hip-hop at that time—inspired him to learn about Malcolm X, which carried him further on a journey of self-discovery.
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