Brother Ali Shadows on the Sun

[Rhymesayers; 2003]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: underground hip-hop
Others: Slug, Wu-Tang Clan, Talib Kweli

Brother Ali is walking a fine line between two very opposite poles of hip-hop on his second full-length album, and first on Slug’s Rhymesayers, Shadows on the Sun. One persona at the end of the pole, a full fledged resurrection of late 80s and early 90s gangsta rap, and the other façade on the other side, a truly copycat troubadour of late 90s independent hip-hop a la Rawkus Records…ahem, can you say Talib Kweli! And Brother Ali manages to travel and explores every genre located directly between both style experimenting and intertwining funk, jazz and soul into a great and enjoyable hip-hop album.

Produced by Ant, famous for mixing some of hip-hop most innovating beats and production, Brother Ali tells tales of hip-hop braggadocio, family relationships and shady and discredited promoters. Like most hip-hop storytelling, Brother Ali exemplifies his issues with a direct and honest rhyming flow, expressing his views in a straightforward and sincere fashion and manner. The production is truly experimental yet unbelievably dazzling, emphasizing on several hip-hop sounds and influences that keeps the album fresh and inviting track after track. “Pay Them Back” could fit neatly on any Wu-Tang record from the last 5 years, showing a clear and concise production that is reminiscent of Rza, throwing several looped samples and droning organ noise. Brother Ali complies by focusing on his true and gritty lyrics, matching the beat perfectly with his lyrical onslaught. “Prince Charming” is a funktified, laid-back track reminiscent of The Coup and their funk-driven mixology. Ali drops the gangsta stance and tells his story with flow and conviction. “Blah Blah Blah” is a great reproduction of DJ premier’s most innovative beat conception. Ali and Slug take turns keeping the party jumping by creating a Jurassic 5 vibe with a linear collaboration and lyrical delivery. Hip-hop styles and perception are clearly identified and performed flawlessly by both the emcee and the producer throughout Brother Ali’s Shadows on the Sun.

And that is the true highlight of this album; Brother Ali’s Shadows on the Sun can deliver several styles of hip-hop without blemishing any particular one during the course of the entire record. That is true hip-hop talent and that is why Brother Ali is one of today’s most accomplished hip-hop performers. Very strong and often brilliant work for one of hip-hop’s most promising emcees.

1. Room with a view
2. Champion
3. Star quality
4. Prince charming
5. Win some Lose some
6. Pay them back
7. Blah Blah Blah
8. Shadows on the sun
9. Prelude
10. Forest Whitaker
11. Bitchslap
12. Backstage pacin'
13. When the beat comes in
14. Missing teeth
15. Dorian
16. Soul whisper
17. Picket fence
18. Victory (come forward)

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