Album Review: Brother Ali – All The Beauty In this Whole Life [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 5th May 2017]

Have you ever seen The Battle of Algiers? Released in 1966, it’s a great movie about war waged by Algerian freedom fighters, the FLN, against their colonizers, the French. The Casbah, a traditional Algerian quarter, was where the FLN was headquartered. In the film, the Casbah plays host to a developed militant subculture; bombs were transported in woven baskets, FLN fighters hidden by citizens in brick walls. The US’s inner cities have produced a similar militant subculture, devoted to especially fostering a music that helps to release one’s self from the grips of late capitalism: hip-hop. Brother Ali’s new album All The Beauty In This Whole Life is militant in both morality and positivity, for, “they’ve been trying shut us down our whole life,” as he raps in standout track “Own Light.”

All The Beauty In This Whole Life is manifested by “Own Light,” which asks the listener to consider, “what hearts are for.” “I thank god,” he raps, often in the song, along with that, “sometimes I feel like a stranger,” but that “I know that I am a soldier,” and that’s he’s, “what the ancestors made,” and “nothing that I own owns me.”

Dear Black Son”, a letter about surviving American racism, very much like Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book Between The World and Me, is the album’s highlight. “You can forget about scars, but not about wounds,” he raps, along with, “these are the confessions of a father broken-hearted… pulling his son out of a target.” He tells his black son that, “you need not do anything but be,” “let yourself heal.” The song, like the entire album, flames most when he’s honest: “dear black son, I can’t protect you like I want to”.