Hip-hop isn’t dead…
As soon as the instantly recognisable saxophone sample from Darkest Light by Lafayette Afro Rock Band, notably used by Public Enemy in ‘Show ‘Em What You Got’, was dropped, it was clear to me, and the many others packed into the sweaty Korova basement, that this would be a night to live long in the memory. Brother Ali is that rare breed of hip-hop artist capable of generating an atmosphere that is undoubtedly fun whilst retaining the intensity and intelligence of new school hip-hop, paying homage to the pioneers of the movement.
The start of Ali’s show was just that, homage to the new school era of hip-hop, as he rapped his own words over the top of classic beats from the likes of Eric B & Rakim, and A Tribe Called Quest. It is perhaps Brother Ali’s respect and passion for the likes of KRS-One and A Tribe Called Quest that set him apart from the majority of rappers as he seeks to generate a party atmosphere similar to the pre-gangsta rap hip-hop movement, as well as lyrics containing self-reflection and social commentary rather than clichés about girls and money. As a relative newcomer to Brother Ali, these samples were the perfect introduction, injecting the crowd with energy and enthusiasm.
As he moved into his back-catalogue off of 2007’s The Undisputed Truth and 2003’s Shadows on the Sun, chopping up different samples in the background whilst rapping the lyrics from ‘Room with a View’ amongst others. The fluidity and variation of his set were perfectly tuned to draw in Ali virgins like myself, keeping the pace optimal whilst still switching it up. As the opening beats of ‘Uncle Sam Goddamn’ kicked in, it was evident that everyone in the room was fully converted to the music of Brother Ali as there wasn’t a stationary foot in sight, even those at the back had put their pints down and their hands up in appreciation. His ability to fill a room with his voice is unparalleled, with the atmosphere being equally intense throughout the basement. Crowd interactio was taken to a new level, topped off by Ali and his DJ, BK-One, jumping into the crowd at the close to greet fans and sign autographs.
Hip-hop on the whole has taken its fair share of criticism over the last decade for its involvement in glamorising guns, crime and violence, as well as many labelling it as ‘tired’ and ‘unimaginative’ as the charts became saturated with overproduced and unintelligent rap. But 90 minutes in the presence of Brother Ali proved hip-hop is anything but dead.