Published Sep 19, 2012As Brother Ali takes the wraps off his latest effort, the recently released Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, he notes that he's putting out the album within an extremely downbeat political and social climate.
"Our society is not good right now. And it's not going in the right direction either," the Muslim rapper tells Exclaim!
Nevertheless, the Minneapolis-based artist is now heading out on a sprawling North American tour this month, with Canadian dates in Toronto on September 30 and in Vancouver on October 19.
"I love Canada. You guys have a much more civil society that we do. But you still aren't safe up there either," he says.
Inspired by current world events, such as the upcoming U.S. election, the worldwide Occupy movements and a recent trip to Mecca, the 14-track Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color features tracks like "Work Everyday" and the title track that examine current world issues, economics and the sociopolitical environment from a critically charged point of view. Overall, the project is something that he notes might not be commercially prudent from a mainstream hip-hop perspective — but a project that he needed to complete regardless.
But are hip-hop heads ready?
"I don't know. It might not work at all. It's might not sell," he says. "There will be people that will love it, but I don't know how well it will do. Just to be honest. I started out making struggle music... this album we took it back to being really hard."
Brother Ali worked with Jake One — the platinum-selling ex-G-Unit producer more known for working with names like 50 Cent, T.I., Wiz Khalifa — to develop the album in the span of two months.
"Working with [Jake], he's more worried about how does the music and my voice sound. I got to focus on what matters to be and he got to focus on what matters to him," Ali says. "So my take on that was not to talk about 'I'm going to shoot you' [but more on] discussing how society is murderous and violent."
So is he pulling for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney for U.S. President this November? Neither, he says, maintaining that he is a voter.
"I'm not much into the theatre of two-party politics, where Obama does this and Mitt does that. It's a charade and not getting at what the real issues are," he says. "I'm hoping that the music is good enough so if the people just listen to it as music, then it can be fine for that too."
Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color is out now via Rhymesayers, and you can see all Brother Ali's tour dates below.
9/20 Birmingham, AL - Bottletree*
9/21 Atlanta, GA - 529*
9/22 Orlando, FL - The Social*
9/23 Ft. Lauderdale, FL - Culture Room *
9/25 Carrboro, NC - Cat's Cradle $
9/26 Washington, DC - 9:30 Club $
9/27 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom $
9/28 Boston, MA - Paradise Rock Club $
9/29 Burlington, VT - Higher Ground $
9/30 Toronto, ON - Annex Wreck Room $
10/2 Ann Arbor, MI - Blind Pig $
10/3 Chicago, IL - Metro $
10/4 Madison, WI - Barrymore Theatre $
10/5 Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue $
10/9 Iowa City, IA - Gabe's Oasis $
10/10 Omaha, NE - Waiting Room $
10/11 Fort Collins, CO - Aggie Theatre $
10/12 Denver, CO - Bluebird Theatre $
10/13 Boulder, CO - Fox Theater $
10/15 Salt Lake City, UT - Urban Lounge $
10/17 Seattle, WA - TBA $
10/18 Bellingham, WA - Wild Buffalo $
10/19 Vancouver, BC - Venue Nightclub $
10/20 Portland, OR - Hawthorne Theater $
10/21 Eugene, OR - WOW Hall $
10/23 Reno, NV - Cargo $
10/24 Arcata, CA - Humboldt State University $
10/25 San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore $
10/26 Santa Cruz, CA - The Catalyst $
10/27 Los Angeles, CA - El Rey Theatre $
10/30 Santa Barbara, CA - Velvet Jones $
* with Homeboy Sandman, DJ Sosa
$ with Homeboy Sandman, DJ Sosa, the Reminders