Brother Ali: A Voice For The Suffering The veteran rapper takes on thorny issues throughout his new album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color.

Brother Ali: A Voice For The Suffering

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The music we're hearing comes from an album whose title is a mouthful, "Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color." Dreaming in Color is significant because the artist, Brother Ali, is Albino. "Mourning In America" is significant because of how Mourning is spelled, M-O-U-R-N-I-N-G.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LETTER TO MY PRESIDENT")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LETTER TO MY PRESIDENT")

INSKEEP: Brother Ali, born into a white family is Jason Newman, brings his own experience as an albino to his lyrics about race and inequality.

: I've, you know, really felt like I didn't have a whole lot of hopes for living any type of happy life that I could feel good about until I was taught and loved and embraced by African-American people - by black people. And the black is beautiful movement is what gave me the space to believe that I could feel good about my presentation as an albino person.

INSKEEP: He converted to Islam at age 15 and has since changed his name. He's in his 30s now but looks older with his white beard. The cover of his latest album features the artist kneeling to pray, using an American flag as a prayer rug.

: And it was meant to be a literal depiction of the album title. That the things that we believe about our country - freedom, justice, equality, life liberty, pursuit of happiness, all people being equal - that these things are on the ground, these things are suffering, and so I am kneeling and praying for it.

INSKEEP: Though he knows some people may be offended, and one favorable music article urged don't judge the album by its cover.

: The meaning behind kneeling in this reverent way, and praying, is only a problem if they have believed this lie, that somehow being a Muslim and being an American are mutually exclusive.

INSKEEP: Brother Ali argues they're not, and says he relied on his faith when his father committed suicide and he lost a close friend in 2010.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STOP THE PRESS")

INSKEEP: Brother Ali says after a month-long pilgrimage to Mecca, he returned home with a renewed sense of purpose.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY BELOVED")

INSKEEP: That's from the album "Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color" by Brother Ali.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY BELOVED")

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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