The blue, luminescent glow of the Culture Room illuminates every shade of skin as the underground hip-hop fans of Florida anxiously wait for Brother Ali to take the stage.
Homeboy Sandman, DJ Sosa and The Reminders have joined the Minneapolis-based rapper on his “Mourning in America, Dreaming in Color” tour, adrenalizing the crowd with rhymes that strike like bullets, hitting home and settling deep into the flesh of free and conscious thought.
They cut the energy-charged air with their musically guided hands, delivering the word, shooting down their demons with messages of self-respect, resilience and doing what you’re meant to do, no matter the obstacles.
The audience is pumped; everyone’s movements pulsing the air as they feel the hysteria. Finally, Brother Ali glides onto the stage.
The mindful rapper, whose music is comparable to that of Atmosphere and Eyedea & Abilities, offers sincere reflections on life, death, politics and the social world.
“Mourning in America, Dreaming in Color” is Brother Ali’s most political album yet, as he shines through clearer and sharper than ever before.
The cover of the album is an image of him kneeling and praying on top of an American flag laid out on the ground.
When asked why he would do such a thing, he responds, “I didn’t put the flag on the ground – I found it there and I prayed for it.”
With lyrics like “When innocent people perish / It’s a very thin line between a soldier and a terrorist,” listeners immediately recognize that the phenomenal rapper is truly at ease in his element.
Nothing can stop him, and his live performance is absolutely flawless.
The second the bass drops, the conscious hip-hopper shoots lines of lyrical genius from his lips with calm yet passionate composure.
Every punch of clever wording rides on the waves of excellent instrumentals, ranging from brass wind instruments to a red electric guitar.
Opening with “Stop the Press,” Brother Ali cleverly summarizes the events that took place during his two-year break from touring.
After the sudden deaths of both his father and his good friend Michael “Eyedea” Larsen, the artist faced inner turmoil that could only be mended by a journey of spiritual reflection. He boarded a plane to Mecca, where he was able to look deep within himself and his faith, turning inward to find peace amid the chaos.
This period of self-examination gave rise to a triumphant loss of self-doubt, allowing Brother Ali to write his every emotion and every thought without restraint.
The song “Tight Rope” from the album “US” begins to play; the first verse staying true to its original recording, the second verse set to the beat of “Victory! (Come Forward)” from “Shadows on the Sun,” and the third verse rapped over Dr. Dre’s “Still Dre.”
The room is bouncing, spinning, electrified. You stare up at Brother Ali, just feet away from this down-to-earth big guy, and swear that through his lightly squinted eyes shaded by white eyelashes, he’s staring back, directly at you, despite the fact that he’s legally blind.
He’s speaking to you, as though he sees something in you that others can’t.
Everyone’s hands and bodies have become lyrical. All eyes focus in on what they couldn’t see before, sharing one unique vision.
When the show ends, every voice shouts “Encore!” and Brother Ali comes back onstage to perform “Truth Is.”
At the end of the show, Brother Ali talks to each of the fans individually. He’s laidback and unrushed, genuinely flattered by each compliment and touched by the personal stories.
As the fans exit the gates, heading back to their cars, stronger now, one bit of advice from Brother Ali resonates and lingers in every mind: “If something doesn’t work out, don’t let it be because you didn’t do everything you could to make it happen.”