Big men seldom need to use big words to defend their honor, so sometimes big boys' vocabularies can get a little rusty. Not Brother Ali. It's not just any rapper who can call the Minneapolis-based Rhymesayers label home. Having the balls to dub himself Ali alludes to hella hype as well. But Brother Ali delivers the punch his name promises.
Ali isn't one of those quick-to-sign-the-dotted-line, studio-only kinds of rappers. Earning credibility in freestyle battles, Ali is inherently at ease onstage. On his album Shadows on the Sun, he proves his ability to craft songs more intricate than the boasts and disses spit back and forth by braggart MCs. Ali spins stories of the downtrodden in Minneapolis and addresses his own insecurities in poignant retrospectives. After throwing his inner dialogue about being an Islamic overweight albino out to the masses, he rebounds with tough street talk about his skills. No rapper can make an album without pumping himself up; it wouldn't be rap any other way. Ali just does it with a touch of humor and dignified reserve.