He’s the brother from another mother or in this case the brother from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Brother Ali has been making great indie hip-hop for about ten years now and he shows no signs of slowing down. He is currently part of the “How The Grouch Stole Christmas Tour” and I had the opportunity to chat with Ali about his recent pilgrimage to Mecca, his upcoming tour and also about the loss of his friend Michael Larsen.
David Carr: You recently just got back from your pilgrimage or “Hajj” to Mecca correct?
Brother Ali: That is correct.
David Carr: Was this your first time making the trip? What was the experience like?
Brother Ali: This was my first time making the trip. For me to try and put something like this into words — it’s just gonna come off sounding cliché. It was without a doubt the most challenging and grueling thing I have ever done in my life, but it was also the most motivating and enlightening thing I have ever done. There really is no way for anyone to get the full picture of Islam until you do a pilgrimage. It really is incredible. The site of close to four million Muslims together was amazing.
David Carr: Would you be willing to do it again?
Brother Ali: Yeah I would definitely like to do it again. I would like to go back and take my wife and kid on a smaller pilgrimage. My goal at this point is to make sure other members of my community from my local mosque, also get a chance to go and experience this.
David Carr: Now that you are back in the states you are getting ready to go on the “How The Grouch Stole Christmas Tour”. What can fans expect this winter?
Brother Ali: Well this is The Grouch’s tour. It’s kind of a tradition at this point. This tour, when it happens is all about having fun. My shows are usually very serious and political. On this tour I’m gonna change things around and make my set more fun.
David Carr: Speaking of fun, your usual DJ BK-ONE will not be with you and instead you will be touring with DJ Snuggles. Where is BK ‘”ONE and how did you hook up with DJ Snuggles, a guy who probably has the “happiest” name in all of rap music!
Brother Ali: BK has been my right hand man for ten years. He and his wife just had a kid and she runs a pretty important community center. It’s vital to a lot of people so it became more important for BK to stay at home rather than spin records for me. DJ Snuggles has been a friend of mine since high school. He is a great beat boxer and he has been on tour with me since he was seventeen!
David Carr: On your last record you alluded to the fact that you were feeling happy in your life with regards to your wife and child. Are you still in that same frame of mind?
Brother Ali: To be honest my music has always been about my own personal struggles. On my last disc “Us” I focused on telling the stories about other people’s struggles. There was only one song on my last disc that dealt with me being happy with my own life. The rest of the disc focused on what other people were going through.
David Carr: With regards to you writing about other people’s struggles, you have always been fiercely political on your discs. How are you feeling about the frustration people are feeling as we come near to the close of President Obama’s second year in office?
Brother Ali: Honestly, I think he is the best president I have seen in my life time. He inherited a huge mess and we are feeling it now. He is navigating the country through these issues the best he can. He is only one man and he can’t do it all. He can only do so much. Who has a better plan? Who in the Republican Party has a better plan? He passed a health care plan; he passed a stimulus bill to deal with our economic situation. We as individuals have to step up. We need to deal with these issues in our own communities. It’s easy to just point the finger and lay blame. We have become followers. We go to jobs we don’t like, we come home, and we eat, watch reality TV and go to bed. We are not actively participating in the solutions. When folks sit back and just blame, it’s indicative of where we are as a society and how much we are not doing.
David Carr: The indie hip-hop world is still mourning the loss of Michael Larsen (aka “Eydea” of Eyedea and Abilities). How has his passing affected you?
Brother Ali: It always takes a while for a true artist to be appreciated, especially if they are ahead of their time. It takes a life time to appreciate what some artists were about. Michael was great. He was better than all of us. He challenged us and pushed us to be better. On a personal level, I lost a good friend — he was a good friend to everyone around him. On an art level; he was profound, poetic, spontaneous, precise — when it came to freestyle he was amazing. It was like listening to the spoken form of jazz. It’s cliché to say but had I known he was gonna leave us; I would have spent more time with him.
David Carr: It’s been a while since we have heard some new music from you. Are you planning on hitting the studio next year?
Brother Ali: I have started working on some new material. My last few discs have been concept albums. I have dealt with my own struggles. I have dealt with other people’s struggles. I am not sure what this one is going to be. I am sure I will have some new music out in the New Year.
Check out Brother Ali on the “How The Grouch Stole Christmas Tour”
12.01 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theatre – Buy Tickets
12.02 – San Diego, CA @ Sound wave – Buy Tickets
12.03 – Tempe, AZ @ Club Red – Buy Tickets
12.04 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theatre – Buy Tickets
12.05 – Boulder, CO @ Fox Theatre – Buy Tickets
12.06 – Boulder, CO @ Fox Theatre – Buy Tickets
12.07 – Salt Lake City @ Urban Lounge – Buy Tickets
12.08 – Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory – Buy Tickets
12.10 – Bellingham, WA @ Wild Buffalo – Buy Tickets
12.11 – Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom – Buy Tickets
12.12 – Bend, OR @ Domino Room – Buy Tickets
12.14 – Sacramento, CA @ Tropicana – Buy Tickets
12.15 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent – Buy Tickets
12.16 – Oakland, CA @ New Parish – Buy Tickets
12.17 – Santa Clara, CA @ Avalon – Buy Tickets
12.18 – Visalia, CA @ Cellar Door – Buy Tickets
12.19 – San Luis Obispo, CA @ Downtown Brew – Buy Tickets