Brother Ali: The Undisputed Truth

When an MC isn’t right for the gun-toting d-boy image but doesn’t want to carry around a backpack full of spoken word poetry either, what does he rap about? Typically, he simply raps about rapping, harping on how much better he rhymes than everyone else in the history of language. That tactic is great for building hype on mixtapes, but it’s a rare breed that can turn those witty punch-lines into an album of substance. With The Undisputed Truth (Rhymesayers Entertainment), Brother Ali falls just short of the mark, but nevertheless turns in another respectable entry into his well-received catalogue.For those tracks that are essentially long battle raps, Ali is personal and creative enough to hold interest. Combined with solid and consistent production, The Undisputed Truth is focused without being repetitive. While Ali’s vocal style doesn’t change much from song to song, it works over a variety of tracks. His energy adds to the relaxed “Pedigree” rather than working against it, and on more upbeat tracks like the retro “Listen Up,” he doesn’t go over the top. Still, Ali perhaps spends too much times chastising commercial rappers about their impacts on both hip-hop and society as a whole. It so much isn’t that his complaints are illegitimate, rather that he makes his point well enough early on that it eventually becomes excessive.When Ali isn’t brow-beating other MCs, he takes time to vent on the pitfalls of The American Way. With “Letter From the Government” or “Freedom Ain’t Free,” Ali’s talent for political commentary is higher than that of most of his competition. Rather than inserting stray inflammatory remarks into his verses just to get a rise out the public, his complaints are well elaborated indictments of society. Refreshingly, Ali points fingers in all directions instead of perpetually whining about “the system.” With so few MCs providing well reasoned, in-depth political commentary, he may have been better served talking more about the state of our world than of our music. He seems to have more to say about that subject anyway.There isn’t anything that jumps out as categorically wrong with The Undisputed Truth, but it lacks that “special something” that would make it a classic. The elements are all well done, but don’t necessarily beg for many repeat listenings. Still, with Nas’s “Hip-Hop is Dead” campaign in full swing, Brother Ali helps keep faith in a resurrection.