Ten years since Uncle Sam Goddamn drew heavy fire for its controversial critique of America’s human rights violations, Ali Douglas Newman, aka Brother Ali, has abandoned braggadocio but kept the candour. By Rip Nicholson.
BROTHER ALI interviewed DECEMBER 10, 2016
For Street Press Australia [VIEW HERE]
Uncle Sam Goddamn, the second single released from Ali Douglas Newman or Brother Ali‘s 2007 album The Undisputed Truth, was flagged by The US Department Of Homeland Security for its condemnations. This, of course, brought a lot of attention to one of rap’s most insightful and contentious MCs, whose mission remains at the centre of his lyrics. “Especially that song,” he stresses. “I think it’s possible to grow, but the core is still there and a lot of my core is in that song.”
“The album that we are about to release really focuses on the idea of meaning and love and beauty and how human beings apart can connect with each other.”
He’s now aged 39, but Newman admits there are certain joints from his early-20s that he owes to immaturity. “People think of me as being a conscious rapper. I have songs where I am just completely talking about my ego saying, ‘I’m the best rapper, I can beat anybody, they’re all wack to me.’ Those are the songs that I’m glad didn’t catch on. I just don’t feel like that anymore. If I have a room full of people and their ears and their hearts I don’t wanna talk about how great a rapper I am anymore. I’m glad for the songs of mine that have become strong words.”
Newman has always had “strong words” to match his beliefs, whether they be political or concerning affairs of the heart. While Uncle Sam Goddamn relates to the former, two handpicked standouts resonate from a more personal place — tracks that must be included in every setlist.
“One of them would be Forest Whitaker, which is the message of self-acceptance for those who feel like they don’t fit to whatever the standard is so they feel like outsiders, and we really have to just embrace ourselves. The other song is called Babygirl, which is about sexual violence and what it’s like to be in love with a survivor and witness that journey and that tremendous strength that they have. So they’re the three songs that I love to perform and I have the honour of doing that at every single show. If I don’t do those three, someone will be upset.”
As his heaving tour with longtime Rhymesayers cohorts Atmosphere heads for Australia, Newman’s sixth LP is finished and ready to unveil live. “The album that we are about to release really focuses on the idea of meaning and love and beauty and how human beings apart can connect with each other.
“I have been extremely fortunate especially with the people I make music with,” Newman punctuates speaking highly of Atmosphere’s DJ/producer Anthony Davis. “[Atmosphere] make the foundation of their music trying to get at the core of who we are as people and those are things that don’t change that much. Ant is so essential to me making music and that really comes from the deepest part of me because of the friendship that we have.”