Five years since the release of Brother Ali's Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, the Jake One-produced collection of approachable, politically engaged hip-hop, the rapper returns with All the Beauty in This Whole Life, a refreshing snapshot of his journey down the path to spirituality and self-love.
"I was trying to get the heart right, get my heart right so that I can [really] live more freely and live more fully," he told Exclaim during a recent interview. This manifesto is probably best exemplified on the song "Own Light," which he wrote while observing a period of silence on a spiritual retreat.
Produced entirely by long-time friend and collaborator Ant (of Atmosphere), the project follows in the footsteps of past releases, with songs that are deeply personal. "Out of Here" confronts the suicide of his grandfather and father, while "Dear Black Son" is a fresh take on the topic of police violence in the United States.
Spirituality is a prevalent theme, but for the most part is presented in an almost vague way, leaving the concept up to interpretation. However, he gets specific a few times, particularly on the song "Uncle Usi Taught Me," where he describes a run-in with the TSA as a result of both his Islamic faith and travel history. There is also a healthy dose of history in his exploration of the development of the racial divide and the origins on Whiteness on "Before They Called You White."
Bursting with social commentary that pushes the woke meter past ten, and beaming with an air of honesty, you can feel the love that Brother Ali puts into his music. All the Beauty in This Whole Life is a welcome work by an artist who's put it all on the table over the past six albums; his seventh was well worth the wait. (Rhymesayers)