Brother Ali Shadows On the Sun

Brother Ali's diverse Rites of Passage debut displayed great potential but couldn’t hit its stride. With Shadows On the Sun, Ali exchanges his own productions for those of Ant, the producing half of Atmosphere, losing the instrumentals that peppered the first album. Ant's best production to date makes Shadows sound more obviously like a hip-hop album, with a mixture of gospel and soul as well as boom bap battle tracks. A few beats could become sappy melodrama in the hands of a lesser MC, but Brother Ali "weave[s] a web of words so intricately that the English dictionary lacks an adjective to fit [him]." The albino Rhymesayer is equally qualified at telling stories ("Dorian" and "Prince Charming"), spitting punch lines ("Champion" and "Missing Teeth"), and expressing sincerity ("Picket Fence"). Although Shadows on the Sun could be a couple of cuts shorter, it's not a slight to any single song. Rather, it should be short-listed as one of the year's best albums. (Rhymesayers)