Brother Ali – Mourning In America and Dreaming In Color
During my morning commute the other day, some tool in a Baby Momma Benz cut me off. The license plate read: CPTLIST. After letting them know that I thought they were #1, I wondered why they were so proud to display their economic principle of choice on a car that isn’t exactly a model of American success. If they were driving a new Phantom, I’d understand. But an R Series? Please.
But, then again, what’s more American than unwarranted flossing? Gays can’t even get married in the “Land of the Free.” I support equal rights, and I also support getting invited to gay weddings. Gays can PARTY, and there are few functions that crack like wedding receptions. And do you know who else likes gay parties? GIRLS. As a straight guy, I’d be at a premium at these kinds of affairs. In your face, homophobes! “Land of the Free,” my left foot.
Brother Ali has less-selfish reasons for turning a critical gaze on America on Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color. He wishes the best for his country, which in turn has likely placed him on a variety of federal watch-lists, a product of being a practicing Muslim with a successful rap career. The album, produced entirely by Jake One, isn’t a blistering critique calling for the revolution. Sure, there’s criticism, but it’s in concert with a hope for a brighter future.
Blessed with a clear voice and clearer vision, Brother Ali acknowledges that he’s had a rocky relationship with America, but “it’s home, so we better make the best of it. I wanna make this country what it says it is.” Attaining the best America has to offer has been an uphill battle for Brother Ali, as he chronicles the retirement of his longtime friend and DJ BK-One, his struggles making Us, and the deaths of his father and Eyedea on “Stop the Press”. Just when everything seemed to be caving in, he made a trip to Mecca, linked with Jake One, and the rest is history.
Brother Ali channels Phonte with “Work Everyday”, the travails of the working stiff—“Sick of all this, but I can’t take an off day/Doctor’s office, I can’t swing the co-pay”—and dedicates the last half to blasting conservatives. Brother Ali made a point earlier to stay non-partisan, but he does address the fact that poor people are, for some reason, conservative, supporting “the blind right wing of a bird that can’t fly.” That’s the most politically charged that Ali gets, as he sticks to an approach espoused by the great André Benjamin: “I tell like it is, then I tell it how it could be.”
Usually when albums take a more serious, mirror-to-society tone, a driving emotion is anger. There wasn’t much room for joy and happiness on Ice Cube’s early albums, the gold standards for impassioned political speech during the early ’90s. Mourning in America’s darker points are borne of frustration, not so much anger. Rather, it’s driven by love—Brother Ali’s love for his family, friends, fans, and the people who came before him who stood for what they believed in, so he could do the same today. He wants a better tomorrow for his son, just as I do for my hypothetical future son, Tupac Montana Castano. Brother Ali’s desire for the future generations to have it better than we do is a fundamental part of the American Dream, and it’s an ideal that should resonate on a human level, regardless of political affiliation.