Bulletin Board Archive

Topic: A Rare Interview w/ Brother Ali pt 1

  1. Feb 14, 2006 04:42am by NRG - livin the art that is life ! www.64111clinic.com fam www.nrginmotion.com massage www.myspace.com/nrginmotion world community Location: havenhouse KCK/ 64111 Clinic 4 Life
    www.TheOG.net Hands down the deepest interview with Brother Ali that you will get! We sat down with the Brother and talked about everything from ANT (his producer) to why Ali feels Jay-Z is one of the illest in rap's history. We covered so many subjects that we had to split it into two parts. Here's the first part for you all. TheOG: So you dropped Rites of Passage, then Shadows On the Sun, and then the Champion EP, so what’s coming up next? Brother Ali: I’m actually just finishing an album right now called The Undisputed Truth. TheOG: And are you still working with ANT? Brother Ali: Yep, it’s ANT on the whole thing. Me and ANT, we are really a group, you know? Like a Guru and DJ Premier kind of thing. I just feel like he brings out the best in me, and I think I also bring out the best in him, in terms of production and ideas. ANT is really a multi-layered individual, and so the different artists he works with lets him show different sides of his personality and who he is. Working with me really brings out some of the old school hip-hop, and also there is a certain level of emotional stuff that we do together that allows him to show some different moods. The main thing that is great about him is that he’s not there to draw a bunch of attention to himself, like look at this beat I made, but more like look at what I can bring out of this person, this artist I work with, the mood that he creates that makes you want to write certain things, just make you dig a little bit deeper inside yourself. And then also, creating like a whole album that hits different highs and lows, that takes you different places in terms of the sound, the energy, the mood of the songs. And then tie it together into a package that you can sit down and listen to from beginning to end. He’s really about making you look your best, which most people who are called producers now, don’t do that, they’re not there to do that but instead to get credit for themselves. ANT has never been into that. At the end of his time, he wants you to say, “that man made amazing albums with people, and the artists he worked with did their best work with him.” TheOG: It seems like most producers nowadays aren’t producers, like you said, they are more like salesmen, selling beats. Brother Ali: They’re not even there for the song, they’re not even in the room when they make the song. With ANT,what we do, at his house he has an old-school four-track, and we sit in his house all night and we can take as much time as we want with nobody else hearing it. It’s just the two of us, and we make a song and just try different things and ideas, and if they don’t work, nobody ever hears them and we didn’t spend any money, so we can just get loose and do whatever we want. The songs that we like, we take to the studio and re-record them there. Not even the people at Rhymesayers hear the @#%$ until we think it’s worthy. Mainly the way that most producers work is that they mail you the beat, or they e-mail it, and you pay them and then they’re done. Once they get their check, they don’t give a @#%$ and they’re on to the next. It does seem like the one MC one producer thing is starting to make a comeback, but I think it will be a trend, like people will do it for a couple of years and then they’ll leave it. But, you know, Kanye and Common made that album, and I heard a rumor that NaS and DJ Premier are gonna make a whole album together. Which would be fresh, I mean I wish that would happen more often. You know, if you try to create anything, like if you’re trying to build an airplane or something, and you have one guy come in and does one wing, and then another guy does the other wing, and then another person does the cockpit, and somebody else, you know it just doesn’t make sense. People wouldn’t want to fly in that, because there was no master plan to make all of those pieces work together. But you know, most people don’t try and make albums, they try to make a hit. So instead of making a rounded album, they take thirteen or fifteen tracks and a hit, instead of making songs that do other things instead of trying to be hits. TheOG: It’s also crazy how much people are willing to spend for a hot beat. On this tip, I feel like the most remarkable thing about Shadows On the Sun was that it was consistent, all the way through. There was no filler, it was a consistently a solidly good album, and I feel like that is really rare in hip-hop these days. Brother Ali: That’s what we really try to do. And it seems like people either really like it, or they don’t even mess with it at all – there’s no in betweens. That’s what I like, that was my whole thing when I made that record. There is so much underground hip-hop, and so much of it is mediocre, at least at that time, it feels like it’s getting worse and worse. At that time there was a lot of mediocre independent, underground rap and there was so much @#%$ coming out, every Tuesday there was a whole wall full of new 12-inches at our store. And it was forgettable, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. It was good and it covered all the basics, but it was really forgettable music that was coming out for like a five year period. You couldn’t really diss it, you know… to me it would be better for @#%$ to just be terrible, so you could laugh at it or some @#%$. For me, I knew I wasn’t going to be wack, I just didn’t want to be mediocre. And I think we did it, the people that listen to us really like it a lot, and the people who don’t, we’re not even on their radar. TheOG: Yeah, that’s how it should be. So, Rhymesayers has just been blowin’ up these last few years, so many new artists dropping albums and whatnot. What do you think the future holds for the Rhymesayers? Brother Ali: I think its gonna be really great. It’s basically a label that was started as a crew, it used to be a crew called the Headshots. It was like all the best, young, up and coming MCs, DJs, b-boys, graff writers, and producers from the Twin Cities in the mid-90’s. And they basically operated as a family – one person would put out an album, they would pool all their resources and put out albums and mixtapes. They would take the money from that and buy new equipment and make some more @#%$ and put out more @#%$, and everyone would be on these tapes. They decided to turn that crew into a record label, and that’s when the name Rhymesayers came about. They took all the money from the tapes and the shows that they were doing and they put out the Beyond album, and with the money from that they put out the first Atmosphere album which was Overcast. And you know, now it’s more of a business, it’s a record label, but it still has that crew feeling for the core members. It has expanded a lot, and about six years ago they started renting this place in uptown Minneapolis, and made a record store there called Fifth Element, and kind of set-up a makeshift office in the back. The Rhymesayers store room is in the basement of that building, and then we ended up buying the building from the person we were renting it from, and renovated it, knocked all the walls, made the store bigger, built a second level on the top for offices. Now we’re building a studio there, and we are moving the studio inside there. Artists on the label are happy for the most part, and we all control our part of what we’re doing, you know, none of us are at the mercy of the label. It’s really more of a partnership than a label, every artist has the most input that they could possibly have. TheOG: So, what’s it like being a sober MC in the underground hip-hop world? Brother Ali: I mean, I don’t know it any other way, you know what I mean? TheOG: But as far as relationships with other artists, other people in the community… Brother Ali: Well, I have people that I’m cool with, and I’m cool with just about everybody. The people that I’m not cool with, I just never see them, you know, I don’t know them. But, there are a lot of people who I’m on good speaking terms with, and then there are people who have become more than just comrades. I never really tried to pretend that the people at my job, when I was working jobs, were my close friends. We were both coming to the same place everyday for the same reason, so it’s easy to feel like you’re friends, but if you had just met that person somewhere, they would be just another @#%$. So with a lot of rappers and DJ’s, it’s like yeah these people are cool, we’re all doing the same thing, we have something in common, I have no ill will towards them, I like them, when I see them it makes me happy. I like seeing them be successful, you know, because I’m a person who believes that there is enough out here for all of us to be successful, and I don’t feel like I’m in competition with any of them, with any underground rapper. I don’t see it that way at all, and mainly it’s because when they get successful they get more fans that didn’t even know about hip-hop to begin with, so that’s somebody that… you know, if Aesop Rock sells 300,000 records to new people, all those people are going to start listening to Atmosphere and eventually they’re going to listen to me. Underground hip-hop fans, they don’t support one and not the other one, they like everything that’s good and so when people sell records, all of those people’s fans are eventually gonna come @#%$ with me. So go do your thing, you know! Also, they’re out here busting their asses and grinding like me, so when they make it feels like the good guy winnin’. And some of them are really close personal friends, like I would say that I’m as close with MURS as I am with the majority of my friends. Blueprint is the same way, and, me and Slug have a kind of big brother-little brother kind of thing. That dude has done nothing but help me, ever since I met him, or ever since I went on tour with him. But whatever man, them being drunk and high, it doesn’t really affect anything between us. The only way it really does affect us, and maybe it makes me better friends with those people because I don’t hang out with them, like there’s no reason for me to go to the bar. If I go to the bar, I’m just gonna bum ‘em out, you know? So the times that I hang out with them, like at my house, or their house, or we’re eating, or working on something or whatever, it’s times when I get to see that person for who they truly are instead of what jokes they can tell when they’re drunk. That drunk socializing is just bullshit to me, you know, I don’t envy it. TheOG: It’s not something you’re jealous of. Brother Ali: There are times when I feel bad, like when I’m out with people and they are just partying, ‘cuz it’s like I know I’m not adding to your fun right now. I don’t hate on it either, I just say hey, if that’s what you like, man, go and do you. There have been a lot of times when I’ve been out at bars with Slug and just been like, man! And he’s sitting there trying to entertain me and @#%$, and I’m just like dude I’m out, I’m going to the hotel, you guys do your thing.. I would look through the whole jukebox like, is there some music that I can play that’s gonna make me have fun. TheOG: Not usually? Brother Ali: Yeah, not usually. And that dude goes to weird bars man. I can’t even find Parliament or Stevie Wonder or anything, but, I don’t like @#%$ that I don’t really know about. TheOG: So is Slug a crazed party type dude? Brother Ali: Nah, especially less and less. I don’t want to say he’s getting older, but the further he gets from 21, you know? He’s not crazy, I think a lot of people think that that dude is just crazy, but he’s not. He’ll drink a beer, might smoke some weed sometimes, it’s not all that crazy.I think a lot of people think that his life is on some Rick James @#%$. He’s a good dude, people that know him know that he cares a lot about people, he cares a lot about his affect on people. He takes care of everyone around him, so much so that I’m like damn homie! Every time I hang out with him, he gets phone calls from people trying to borrow money, from people who owe him money, people that he paid for their band to go make a demo. He’s just an amazing dude. If he has to play big-headed, arrogant, smartass, he can definitely do that. But when you really talk to him, he is just trying to be great, and you can’t convince him that he’s great. TheOG: That’s dope. So, do you have any plans to go back on tour anytime soon? Brother Ali: Umm, yeah, I’m gonna do some sort of supporting tour this spring. I have never done my own tour, there’s never been a Brother Ali tour, I’ve always supported other people, and I’m cool with that, because I’ve been developing my @#%$ and building my team. I’ve been developing my catalogue to the point where I can flow a good hour and a half show that’s gonna have different moods, the same way we make a record. Nobody wants to see you being rowdy for an hour, nobody wants to see you being soul-baring for an hour, you gotta have different pieces. So over the years we’ve built up a good show, and we’re gonna go out one more time, supporting different @#%$ and opening for people, and in the fall, we’re gonna do my tour. TheOG: The Brother Ali Tour – this is going to be after you drop your second album? Brother Ali: Yeah, I’m thinking the album will come in the summer, and then the tour will be in the fall. But that could chance, things come up sometimes, you know? You do the best things based on what the circumstances are, and the circumstances now might not be the same in the fall, but that’s my plan and that’s what I’ve been working toward. I didn’t want to step out until I was ready, and people have been telling me for the last year to do my own tour, that people would come see me, and I’ve done little headlining runs through the Midwest, and those are the hardest markets. We’ve been successful, we have had a lot of success doing that in what they call secondary markets, like Omaha, Nebraska, which is a big one for me, that’s one of my favorite places to play in the world. So we do there, we do Iowa City, you know, places like that, and then we also do the larger markets like Detroit and Chicago. So people have been telling me for a long time that I’m ready, and I thought that draw-wise, in terms of drawing a crowd of people that could make me money I was ready, but I didn’t think that my show was quite ready. I didn’t think that I was quite developed as an artist – just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. But now, I think I’m ready. And once I get this new album out and get some more material… ‘cuz I have Shadows on the Sun and then the Champion EP, which is a total of like 30 songs, and when this comes out I will have a good ‘nother 20 or something like that. TheOG: Yeah I saw you a while back at the Knitting Factory with MF Doom and man, I thought your set was too short, I was ready for another hour of that. Brother Ali: That’s what that supporting thing is all about, hit hard and then step off. That was weird, ‘cuz when I did that MF Doom one I had just come off of a headlining run. I had just done one of my Midwest things, and then went straight from headlining to supporting, which are two very different things. TheOG: So how do you keep your music and your family straight, do you find that those two things conflict? Brother Ali: Yeah, they definitely do a lot. TheOG: What’s the hardest part of keeping those two things in line with each other? Brother Ali: That they both just need a lot of time, energy, and emotional investment to be right. I care about both of them, those are my two big loves, actually I would say I have three: Islam, family, and music. And Islam really works perfect with both of them, Islam is not a conflict with anything else. Islam helps try and keep things balanced, strong, and positive, and it just helps with other stuff. Whereas family really needs all your time and all your energy and all your emotional investment and all your money, and music is the same way. Music, really, to do it right, needs all your time, and it needs all your thought, and so, I go back and forth between neglecting the two. I don’t think it’s ever going to be perfect, just gotta not neglect either one to the point where you damage it, cuz if I had to choose I would rather just do music for fun and not try and sell it to people, and just have my family. Eventually that’s probably where I’ll be at. So yeah, you just try to not neglect one or the other, and you know I’m not motivated by just me with music, like me being the man or whatever – hip-hop means something to me that’s really big. It’s a really big cultural/historical thing that happened right before I was born and that I grew up with. It has everything to do with who I am and what I became as a man, as a person. And so, to me that’s big. For me to be involved in it… I don’t think anyone should be involved in it unless they truly respect it. Even if you might be considered an outsider to it, like there are people that I see where I’m like, “you are not a hip-hop person”, you know, but then I get to know them and find out that they have an amazing respect. And you can see it in the music, you can see when someone is on stage or hearing their record, or when you watch them and interact with them – you can tell who really truly cares about this legacy. Because it’s amazing, the more you study about the cultural significance of hip-hop and what it meant for the people who created it and what it means for the being who maintain it and nurture it and grow it. It’s an amazing thing. End of Part 1 Credit: G-Rice for TheOG.net Interviews: Interview with Brother Ali Part 2 of 2 Posted on Monday, February 13 @ 17:43:03 CST by Stevo TheOG: I know in the past you’ve described your music as sacred, and saying that you don’t think of it as a hustle. Brother Ali: No, it’s not, and I always kind of felt that way, but ANT is really the one who solidified that with me. Like I have friends who make great beats, and they’re different from ANT’s beats, but I’m just like man, they don’t know – it’s sacred, it means something. And making a record with ANT who is one of my best friends, there’s a lot more meaning in that record than there is if I were to just buy a beat from somebody. Not that I would never do that or something like that, but a lot of times… music fans have these ideals or like these myths that they create about artists that they like, in terms of like, “Ali would never listen to a Jay-Z record ‘cuz this is underground to the fullest! Ali would never listen to Lil’ Wayne!” And those two myths are the furthest from the truth. Jay-Z is my favorite MC in the last five years, you know? TheOG: So what do you think about this sort of “underground elitism” that you see, like “that shit’s too mainstream”, or like people saying that you would never listen to Jay-Z, what’s up with that? Brother Ali: It's bullshit man... Brother Ali: It’s bullshit man, that shit is played out. That shit played out in the late 90’s, and a lot of it has to do with… well, there’s two groups of people who do that. There’s the “true-school” people, and the new people who have just recently joined the hip-hop world. Now the “true-school” people are just mad, because hip-hop doesn’t feel like what it used to feel like. All the pieces aren’t there the way they used to be, and that’s just a reality that we are going to have to deal with. There is never going to be another Rakim the way that he was, there’s never going to be another Melle Mel, there’s never going to be another KRS-One. There’s never going to be another Ice Cube in his prime, we are going to have to take parts of what we think is great. But I don’t always see it that way, like I think that Jay-Z is just great, period! I think he’s great, that in the art of rhyming and making music and just being fly, like just rappin’, I think Jay-Z is right up there with anybody who’s ever done the shit. Truly, I would put Jay-Z right up there next to Melle Mel and KRS-One and Grandmaster Caz. To me, he’s right there with them – there are even times when I want to say he’s better than them, but that’s just cause I hear him so much. And then I hear KRS-One, and just remember KRS-One live you know, and even him live now from what I understand – I can’t really put anyone over KRS-One for me. But anyway, it’s not gonna be perfect, like Jay-Z is not like Black conscious the way we wish he would be, he’s not political the way some people want him to be. Like KRS-One. if you look at his styles, he was creating new styles with damn near every song, he was intelligent, he could make songs debating points right up there with a college debate team, like right up there with a professor. He had different ways of approaching things, he was very hip-hop, he had the voice, he had the stories, he could do every type of song imaginable – concepts, stories, topics. He used different styles of music, calypso and ska music, funk, reggae, rock, you know what I mean, way before all that shit was popular. He did everything, and not to mention he created organizations like the Stop the Violence thing, he created this thing called HEAL in the 90’s (Human Education Against Lies), he created the Temple of Hip-Hop, which is like a hip-hop preservation society. And this motherfucker live is the most amazing thing I have ever seen, to this day I have never seen nobody do it like that. I feel bad that I never saw Melle Me in his prime, but I saw KRS live two or three times, and he is just incredible, I mean nobody can fuck with him live. His talking, the way he talked to the crowds, his rhyming, his freestyling, the way he controlled shit, nobody’s fucking with him. And its never going to be like that again. TheOG: The other thing with him is had has a voice that just booms out, and like we we’re talking about, a lot of MC’s that come out don’t have that power, that delivery… Brother Ali: Commanding. To hear him, it’s like the chief is talking. The chief of the village is talking and you have to listen and follow. You know, and another thing is that he was a leader in the community, like when he talked it changed people’s lives. People that weren’t even from his neighborhood, but when he would talk… There was a lot of things in my life that I did, said, believed, when I was twelve years that I was like this is the truth, this is bigger than the Bible. And he did a lecture tour, going to universities talking about Western civilization and the history of Africa and it’s contributions to science, medicine, philosophy and religion. I was living in Michigan at the time, and he had a stop at Michigan State University, and I went, I was twelve years old. The Self Destruction book had just come out, and I bought that, and I took it there and listened to his whole thing. I took notes and was just amazed by the shit, and at the end they had a Q&A, and I told him how much I appreciated his book and asked him if he would sign it after he was done. And he was like, , yeah, come up on stage, and he brought me up there in front of all these people, asked me a few questions and signed my book and shook my hand. I was just like... He was already God, you know? After that I was on a learning spree, I was just like I have to know, I have to know everything KRS knows. That shit was big, I really felt like I was going to be somebody, some kind of leader in the revolution. And the same thing with other people that came along, Chuck D was like that, Ice Cube made that AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted album, and then the Death Certificate album, and then they had the riots in LA, and the way he was talking about burning the white man’s world down and having a revolution, like when that shit started, the riots, me and my friends in Michigan were like, man, the revolution is starting right now, this is it. Brothers are going to burn down the country and it’s all gonna be new, we really fucking believed that shit. TheOG: What’s funny is that, if you think about sort of the evolution of West coast gangsta rap, you had Eazy E drop Eazy Duz It, and then NWA dropped Straight Outta Compton, and then Ice Cube dropped those two albums, and if you think about those first four albums, they were on some grimy gangsta shit you know? And then, after the riots happened, the next thing that dropped was The Chronic, which was definitely a sick album, but it was much more suited to getting played on MTV, it was much more smooth and pop-ish. It’s funny to think of how that happened, like you had the riots and all this angry music, and from there it started the whole white takeover of gangsta rap happened right after that. Brother Ali: I think it started even before that, and actually my fiancé just did a presentation on this subject for a class. But really, white kids really started fucking with rap in the early NWA days, like if you really look at when white kids took over rap, I think it was even before that. TheOG: You’re definitely right because, shit, it was a white guy who first got behind NWA ‘cuz nobody else wanted to touch Eazy-E and all them. But that was really when MTV went from playing just a bit of rap a day to playing a whole bunch of it, when The Chronic dropped. Brother Ali: That’s when it became official. But it had been brewing, you know? When the Efil4zaggin album came out, that was like the most press I think a rap album ever got at that point. It was like, this music will ruin your kids and make them criminals and make them try and fuck their little sister, you know? Like Marilyn Manson for rap or Ozzy Osbourne for rap. That was before the riots, and if you look at that album, it was a lot of the same shit as The Chronic, although Dre definitely smoothed it out a lot more. But I definitely feel you, where it seemed like that was the end of the revolutionary shit. Ice Cube still tried to keep it up though, he tried his damnedest to keep it moving, and there was still some more prominent KRS-One records, the Apocalypse 91 album, which was like the fall before the riots. So after that, Public Enemy didn’t have another big record after that. TheOG: It does seem like shit came to that point, like the jump-off point, but then it stalled out. Brother Ali: Yeah… you know what’s funny is that a lot of the true-school heads are a lot of people who got into hip-hop like five years ago. They want shit to sound like it sounded then, but the world isn’t like it was then, this is a different world. And you’ve got artists who try and recreate that, but it isn’t real, like when artists made that music, it was based on shit that was happening in the world at that time, and the way that those cities were at that time… so the true-school heads want to recreate that and its not going to happen, the best thing to do is just still appreciate that shit, still listen to it and write and read about it, document it, do a better job so that its not forgotten. But then you got these newcomer cats that got involved in underground hip-hop and hip-hop in general because, well, for a lot of reasons. It got more grassroots in their minds, but still, I think a lot of the new hip-hop people were racially… not racially motivated, but it has ties to race relations. I think back to when I was in high school, I lived in north Minneapolis which is a mostly Black neighborhood, and me and about 30 other kids were bused from there to a school in the suburbs, not a really affluent school but a school that was considered to be a bit better. At that time, me and my friends were the rap group at that school, and a lot of those kids were like whatever, they were not trying to fuck with hip-hop in any way, shape, or form. Some of ‘em, like you said, were fucking with Snoop, but not really, you know? Now, all of those kids who I don’t even know, but I’ll do these sold-out shows in clubs in Minneapolis, and people will be like “hey, remember me, I went to school with you!”. And I’m like, no motherfucker I don’t remember you. You know? Even with white people who aren’t racist in the sense that they are not white supremacists or skinheads, in their minds they’re like “I’m not racist”, but there still is this thing where white folks don’t feel comfortable with people who aren’t white. They’re not truly comfortable because they know there is something going on that they are not in tune with, which is why they never fucked with KRS-One, which is why they didn’t get involved with hip-hop until the gangster shit, ‘cuz then they could just be like hahaha that shit is funny and it’s crazy. TheOG: Just run jump and shoot. Brother Ali: They could identify with being bad, ‘cuz it’s always cool to be bad. But when KRS-One is teaching about the history of the Bible, motherfuckers are like yeah whatever. Or Rakim, white kids were never into Rakim, never! And damn, Rakim isn’t even threatening, he’s just cool, you know? MURS lays it out perfect on his song “And This is For…” on his 3:16 album, he lays it out beautifully. And it’s funny because all of us have been talking about that for years, and nobody just thought to say that, more or less, in a song, and just put it out there, and MURS did it and that’s why we love him so much. The reality is that there wasn’t white rap that you could listen to as a white person and be like “these people are like me”. And so, what you had was, like, you know how there’s always one white kid at every hip-hop party, those cats were rapping or whatever, and eventually they got good, and that’s where a lot of independent white rappers came from. So they started putting out shit, and then all of these kids who weren’t really into hip-hop started fucking with it ‘cuz it started to become comfortable. Because the thing is, unless you live somewhere that is really diverse, like my girl is from New York, and we talk about how in most of the country, you can be white and just have a completely white life where everybody you deal with, with very few exceptions, is white. All your teachers, all your friends, all your classmates, all the people at the restaurants you go to, the video store, the landlord, everybody is white. And you don’t have to deal with people who aren’t white if you don’t want to. That’s not true of places like New York, where you are so submersed in everybody else’s shit. But most white people just find it easier to do that, whereas other people don’t have that luxury, and so it just transforms into other things. Ever since there has been culture in America its been that way. Elvis was not fucking with the original “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog”, like if you listen to that original shit, that original song is the baddest, funkiest, low-down shit you’ll ever hear in your life, you know? But motherfuckers are like ahh I just prefer the Elvis one, ‘cuz it’s a white dude! And it’s the same thing with hip-hop, where white kids, and this doesn’t necessarily reflect on the artist at all, I think most of the artists started out wanting to be Rakim or EPMD or whatever, but I think that these kids are like, oh shit, this is something I can be a part of, it sounds good to me and I can relate to it. And some of it is really good, like you can’t say that Aesop Rock isn’t the shit, because he’s the shit, you know? So, that went that way, and then when Biggie and Pac died, the mainstream went another direction. After them, the mainstream went a different direction. If you think about it, there used to be a Black underground, like NWA was underground at that time, ‘cuz the shit that was popping on the radio was all positive conscious shit, and the underground shoot you in the face shit was underground, and they just switched sides with Biggie and Pac. And so, what used to be Rap City was like Jeru tha Damaja and Gangstarr and all that, but then this separation happened in the late 90’s, and I really think it was when Biggie and 2Pac died. That’s when it happened in my head, that’s when I started being mad at mainstream rap, because they put Mase out there like Mase was the new Biggie Smalls, and I was like ahh fuck that this kid sucks. And everybody was treating him like he was dope, and he’s not. So for me, that’s when I got really disillusioned with the whole thing, ‘cuz I’ve been listening to hip-hop since ’84, and nothing but hip-hop since ’84, so when that shit happened, I was like this isn’t even what I like about rap anymore. I was never mad at Biggie for doing what he did, when he had the jewels and sweaters and all that, ‘cuz he was doing his thing and I loved it. Or with Jay-Z and his thing… I would say that Jay-Z and Atmosphere got me back into hip-hop. And it’s because I realized that this is mainstream and where it can be the shit, there is shit in the mainstream that is ill, and it’s different from underground. Now there’s underground shit that I listen to and I’m like yeah this is great, and there’s mainstream shit that I listen to and I’m feeling it. TheOG: I wanted to go back for a minute to something you said about white people getting into hip-hop, and how when you were in school the white kids weren’t fucking with Rakim and KRS-One, and when they were into hip-hop it was Snoop and that gangsta shit. Now I hate to get all conspiracy theorist or whatever, but if you think back to the days of slavery on the plantation, the scariest things for the slave masters were the ideas of education, organization, and knowledge of self, because they knew who really held the power. If you think of the ratio of enslaved Africans to white people on the plantation, there was no doubt that if they could get organized, they could blow that motherfucker up. So maybe this is just me, but part of me thinks that a lot of white people are scared to hear KRS-One talking about educating yourself, gain knowledge of self… Brother Ali: You don’t even need to go back that far. I definitely feel you, that shit is real, but think about it – they killed Malcolm X, they killed Martin Luther King, they killed, locked-up, or got a lot of the Panthers hooked on drugs. In LA and Watts, the Panthers were strong, and people in that neighborhood were building up their shit, especially after their riot, the Watts riot. Its proven that the government pushed crack in that neighborhood, in those sections. But yeah, it’s very real. I get asked a lot by people why there is no consciousness in rap anymore, why is it so few and far between. I think it’s because, I mean obviously people believed in uniting and making these movements, but they just all got crushed. So now, I think that people are at the point where they think that the closest thing to being free that they can have is being rich. The closest thing I can have to freedom is being so rich that I can buy freedom and power. Which to me is why Jay-Z is revolutionary, you know? Jay-Z is as big a revolutionary to me as Chuck D. I don’t think his impact is as good, because Chuck D was saying read books and get powerful, whereas Jay-Z is doing it by example. TheOG: But Jay-Z is saying get money and get powerful, and he’s done it. Brother Ali: Yeah, but the only problem with that is that with a lot of the new rappers, they are anomalies. 50 Cent and Jay-Z are the exceptions to the rule. It’s like yeah, sell dope and work on your rhymes, and eventually you’ll be able to rhyme instead of sell dope and you’ll make money. And rhyming to make money is not realistic. Selling dope to make money is not realistic. The majority of people doing rap and selling drugs are spending so much time and energy for the little bit of money that they make, and then the career is so short. Again, back to what MURS says: get a grant, get an MBA, you know? Cause that shit is gonna go a lot further for your money and your time. I mean I’m doing okay, but I got a million friends, I got friends I think are better than me, who are not getting paid for music and who have been doing it longer. The average person that fucks with selling drugs, if you look at the amount of time that they spend out there on that corner, and working on that shit, and thinking about that shit, and then average out the amount that they make for the two years that they do it, versus the five years they’re in prison, and really look at how much you make, the shit just doesn’t work. And that’s the only criticism that I can’t fight about Jay-Z, is that he really made it look like you can sell dope and then rap and you’ll be cool. I don’t know what he’s like as a hustler but I know that nobody’s fucking with him as a rapper or as a businessman. And these little kids that I know, I can say that they’ll never be Jay-Z doing that. You can take that spirit, you can take the essence of his example which is like man I started with nothing and I worked with what I had and I made something out of it, and I never played myself and I never let people take advantage of me and I always knew my own worth. And that’s a great example, take what you have or whatever you know how to do and make a business out of that. But not fucking selling crack, especially not in damn 2006 in Minneapolis, you know what I mean? You’re not going to get killed ‘cuz motherfuckers don’t kill each other like that but you will go to jail because everybody snitches. I have friends that were doing that shit back when Jay-Z was doing it, and I know that they were really on some mafia shit with that code, they did not snitch on each other. They had morals to the shit, and now nobody has morals at all. You can’t straight up do that shit, but see, on the other hand, Chuck D and KRS-One were saying get in them books, read books, start that business, control the economics in your neighborhood, they were straight up saying… TheOG: Knowledge is power. Brother Ali: Yeah. For sure. But definitely that Jay-Z shit is revolutionary to me. TheOG: For sure. Well shit, I’m outta questions, you got any last words or shout-outs? Brother Ali: Yeah, The Undisputed Truth, like I said is coming in the summer, and then The Undisputed Truth tour, which is a big thing for me because it’s going to be my first headlining tour. I’m gonna do it the way I want to do it, the whole night is going to be the way that I want it to be, from the time you walk in to the time you leave. It’s going to be an entire evening of a presentation, and the show is going to be the whole night. I’m really saying that people should fuck with this album, because there’s a lot going into it and people will get a lot out of it. There’s gonna be no bullshit, so when you see that record, grab that shit, and when you see that we’re coming to your city, get them tickets and come out to that shit. And if we don’t come to your city, drive to the city that’s near by you, because I’m not going to waste your time or your money. If you like this shit, then you like what we’re going to do. TheOG: You heard what he said. Peace!