Brother Ali‘s All The Beauty in This Whole Life is just the record that we need right now. It’s a listen that could only come from Ali, his first release in a half-decade, and he hasn’t changed a bit since his last go around. Ali’s still an immensely spirited and thoughtful emcee with much to say, a gifted storyteller who has weathered many highs and lows in his life, from being teased mercilessly for his albinism as a youth in Minneapolis and his conversion to Islam in his teens, to his later struggles establishing himself as a rapper and raising his son. Stomping onto the scene with 2000’s Shadows on the Sun, Ali had an axe to grind and many personal demons to exorcise, and caught the attention of rap fans and critics alike for his strong heart and forceful delivery. Over the years his profile has only ascended. Brother Ali’s music is extremely personal, as he invites you into his life and provides a nuanced exploration of his faith, his love for his family, his callouts of injustice and criticism of the powers that be, and so much more. Six albums deep he’s shown considerable growth as an artist and a person, more composed and wizened with every release. Brother Ali is certainly one of rap’s most unsung emcees.
All The Beauty in This Whole Life has Ali embracing positivity, urging kindness and personal reflection to weather these troubled times. The record has a palpable warmth and sincerity about it, and even on the tracks with heavy subject matter Ali brings a sense of groundedness and reassurance. It’s a really empowering album.
“Dear Black Son” is an album highlight, and is honestly one of Brother Ali’s finest moments. A message to his 16 year-old son, Faheem, Ali gives him the talk, about the dangers that a young black male faces simply by existing in America. Ali mentions to his child that he needs to be cautious and careful and to remember that some people may be threatened by him or view him as a target simply because of the color of his skin. But above all that, Ali reminds his child that he is beautiful, strong, divine, and is free his life to the fullest and without fear, knowing that he comes from a wonderful upbringing, a wondrous culture, and has a father who loves him and will always be there for him. It’s an absolutely powerful listen, one which may bring you to tears.