Brother Ali

Much is written about this Minnesotan albino Muslim rapper being, well, a Minnesotan albino Muslim rapper, but not much at all about what he’s about. Us continues his run with Atmosphere producer Ant providing the sonics. While I’ve never been a huge Atmosphere fan, Ant’s talent is undeniable. Each track has a bounce and soulful energy that would work without vocals. Ali’s voice is unique — a midrange that wears emotion on its sleeve, shaking with every syllable. It takes a couple songs to accept but becomes endearing once you get there. Us is as strong an hour of hip-hop as you are likely to hear all year. What it may lack in a single unifying “hit” single is more than made up for by its overall consistency. “[email protected],” featuring Freeway and Joell Ortiz, is a perfect grouping made even better by its beat change mid-song. The album is a rare event in hip-hop that is relatively feature-free. Besides “Best,” and a couple hooks from Mint Condition’s Stokley Williams, Ali holds down the album solo. Put your headphones on and turn it up.