You can also meet some comic book creators and get your books signed by an artist of a writer.
Here are some of the lovely ladies that are welcome here at Silent Cacophony any time.
I have loved Claire Danes ever since I first saw her on the excellent TV series “My So-Called Life”
The Gummi Bears is an animated television program that I used to watch when I was a kid. I believe that it started back in the mid 1980s.
I used to love this show.
I remember that of all the cartoons I used to watch, this was one that my dad would actually go out of his way to watch with me. I know he didn’t really care to watch any of my other programs but this one we enjoyed together.
Last week I found out that this series had been released on DVD. The public library had the box set containing all of the episodes from the first three seasons. Of course, I had to borrow it. I wanted to see if the show still held up after all these years. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it still does.
The story is really well done. The characters are likable and I found that I really got back into the series.
My class had been really well-behaved for the past few weeks so I rewarded them by showing a few episodes of the show on Friday. My students loved it.
I wish this show was still on the air. But you can find it on DVD and I also found it on YouTube.
Here is the premiere episode, in three parts.
I’ve been extremely busy this month with work, Script Frenzy, an AQ course that I have been taking online, and other personal obligations. So today, I reworked an earlier post from a few years back. It’s a really good one that you can use to help your students make good choices in life. I hope you find it helpful.
Three summers ago, I read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It is an inspiring book and I have taken one of his ideas and made it fit for the classroom.
Tolle tells us that all of our problems in life are simply situations. How we react to these situations is what causes the drama and pain in our lives. He goes on to tell us that there are three things we can do in every situation. The three things are; we can accept the situation, we can fight to change it, or we can run away.
I presented this model to my class to help them make wise and safe choices. I demonstrated it with a personal example. I related to them a time when I was outside doing a duty at recess time. I had to deal with a situation where a student swore at me.
1) I could accept this and let her swear at me. I don’t need to let words bother me. Who cares if she’s swearing at me?
2) I could take her into the office and make sure that she sees the principal for her actions.
3) I could walk away and just ignore her.
Of course, before you make any decision, you should think about it, weigh the pros and cons, and then act. Once again, three things.
1) Accept it – If I let her swear at me. She will think it is okay to show disrespect. Other students might see this and begin to show disrespectful behaviour to me as well. I don’t deserve to be treated this way at school and probably shouldn’t put up with this behaviour.
2) Change it – I can take her into the office so she realizes how serious this is. The principal will make it clear that she needs to be respectful and not swear at school.
3) Walk away – If I walk away, I am actually giving her permission to swear at me. Maybe she will realize it was wrong, maybe she won’t. It could keep happening.
So now I have weighed my options and can safely chose to go with number 2. It is the best decision. Of course this model is overly simple. I could have changed it several different ways. I teach my students that the best decision is a fair and respectful decision to both parties. Taking her to the office is fair, respectful, and safe. Once again, three important things.
We should all be able to remember the Power of 3.
3 things to do in any situation (Accept it, Change it, Walk away.)
3 ways to make a decision (Think about it, weigh the pros and cons, and then act.)
3 ways to know if you made the right choice (Is it fair, respectful, and safe?)
I might be overly simplifying Tolle’s message but I really think this works. It is a great model for making decisions. It is easy to remember. It helps us to realize both sides and make a fair, respectful and safe choice.
Don’t forget to check out all the other great Teaching Tip posts. The Table of Contents Page has them listed by order of appearance and by theme for easy surfing. Enjoy!
I’m gonna write today. It’s week 3 of Script Frenzy. Week 2 was a bust. I need to be productive this week or I’m not going to get it done.
Well, that fills you in on my creative process this week.
I thought that I might have actually been able to complete the one-hundred pages this weekend but I hit a little snag.
I went to the Script Frenzy website and tried to validate my page count. In order to do this, the file had to be saved as a PDF document. I had been writing the screenplay using a free program called Celtx and had been relying on the page numbering function. According to that program, I had written 69 pages but when I converted the file to PDF, my page count shrunk to 58 pages.
I was now further away from the goal of 100 pages than I had thought. I’m glad that I had tried to validate my page count before I thought I was done. It felt like I was going to have to rush the story to finish it in time any way. Now I know that I have enough pages left to tell it properly.
I did a fair amount of writing this weekend and caught back up. I am now at a validated 69 pages and have another 31 to write in this last week of the challenge.
I have a good block of time in which I will be able to write tomorrow so I will get this done. Have no fear. And thanks for the support!
Go to the post Script Frenzy: Mission Completed.
Brother Ali; “Nah, I love that one. That song means a lot to me.”
Chase: “Alright, we’re gonna drop that one and we’ll be back to talk some more with Brother Ali. This is Chase March. Gamma Krush is gonna spin that track. We’ll be right back.”
Chase: “That’s a nice song right there. I’m a writer and I like how that song deals with the writing process. It says, ‘I see all this from the desk I write this rhymes from. My pen starts to scribble on its own, my mind’s numb.’ So your pen is scribbling on its own?”
Brother Ali: “It’s funny because I actually wrote that song in my head. I didn’t actually write that song down. That’s me and Ant’s first song we ever made together. We made that song in maybe 15 minutes. And that’s how we started our work together and he’s produced everything I’ve ever done since then.”
Chase: “That’s amazing how lyrics and ideas can just seemingly come out of the blue, like out of nowhere. It’s amazing where that comes from. It’s pretty interesting that you can write in your head too because I’m a writer but I can’t do that. I know Jay-Z says he can do that.”
Brother Ali: “Jay-Z does that. And at the time I was doing that, that was 2001 and 2002 when I was doing those songs and that wasn’t a popular thing yet. It was rumoured that Biggie used to do that. I think a lot of people have written songs in their head. Now it’s become a style of writing hip-hop lyrics. But what most people do, what L’il Wayne does, what my friend Freeway does, is that they go in, they hear the music, they get a couple lines, they walk in the recording booth, they record those lines, they stop, they think of a couple more lines, and they record those. So you’re still writing, you’re just not actually writing it down on the paper. But when you’d normally think of a passage and write it down, you think of a passage and you say it and passage by passage you piece a song together.
What Jay-Z does and I never been there to see iot but I’ve known people who’ve been there to see it. 9th Wonder, Just Blaze, and Kanye has said that this man will literally hear a piece of music that he likes, walk around the studio mumbling to himself for an hour, and then get in there and say this song to music that he’s never heard before, first take and it’s done. That’s a genius.
When I was writing songs in my head, I was writing little passages at a time, I was writing a song a week. It took me a week to write a song like that and I could only do it when I was inspired to do it. So for Jay-Z to do some of the best written songs in the history of rap, so consistently with such a high output over such a long period of time and keep the quality that high, there’s a definite argument to be made that he’s the best.”
Chase: “Definitely, just in the terms of album output alone, he’s one of the tops. There are people like LL Cool J who has put out 13 albums but they weren’t all good, ya know. I kind of veered away from Jay-Z for a couple of years when he was getting a little more commercial there, in my opinion and I didn’t really want to hear that but going back and looking at it now, I can appreciate his whole body of work.”
Brother Ali: “And body of work is a good term to use for him. Everybody was struggling after Biggie and 2Pac died to put the pieces of the rap world back together and trying to figure out how to resolve the meeting place between being the respected rapper and being commercially successful. Very few people found a good way to figure that out. What Jay-Z did was that he made, all of one album, he would specifically make songs that were for the radio, or for the club setting and among that type of music, they’re still the top songs of their time. But also on that same album, he would give you masterpieces as well. The greatest example of that is a song like ‘Big Pimpin’ is on the same album as ‘So Ghetto,’ and ‘When it’s Hot it’s Hot,’ ya know masterpieces, that by anybody’s standards are some of the greatest rapping that’s ever happened in the history of the artform. There are those on every single one of his albums. That’s a way that he found to reconcile that problem or obstacle where a lot of people just failed miserably.
A lot pf people that are considered to be Jay-Z’s rivals and I’m not going to say names but if you think about who his perceived rivals have been, were a hot googly mess trying to figure that out. Whereas Jay-Z did it perfectly in my mind. He had commercially successful songs on the same album as masterpieces and they all blend cohesively and it’s all him. He’s probably the greatest.”
Chase: “I wish Biggie were still alive because I wonder if Biggie would’ve been able to do the same thing.”
Brother Ali: “That’s a great question and I think that’s something that we never consider. And when Jay-Z says. ‘If I’m not better than B.I.G. I’m the closest one,’ who knows what really would have come. He didn’t have the opportunity to show us what he would have done on album 9.”
Chase: “Yeah, it’s a shame. The only other rapper I can think of that’s had a consistent career and had a great body of work other than Jay-Z, in that longevity I mean, is Ice Cube. And I find that his name never comes up in these discussions.”
Brother Ali: “Oh, he’s one of my favourites. He really did have a long and high output of amazing work both in his music, in his group NWA, also in the people he ghostwrote for. There definitely was a ten-year period where he was considered Top 5 emcee wise. I think since then, he’s diversified what he’s done so much that he’s in movies.”
Gamma Krush: “He’s admitted to having good days and bad days and his bad days would be when he was focusing on his movies.”
Brother Ali: “I think he’s just expanded what he does. His focus isn’t on music as much anymore. But he can’t help but make something great on everything he does. He still has his moments of greatest.”
Chase: “Yeah, I like Cube. Man, this has been aweome. It’s been really cool to be able to sit down with you. I’d been looking forward to this for so long.”
Brother Ali: “This is my favouite interview I’ve done in over a month, since Europe. The first comfortable conversation I’ve had since Europe.”
Chase: “Yeah, that’s what I like to do with my interviews. We’ve got a quite a lot of them up on chasemarch.com.”
Brother Ali: “That’s what’s up.”
Chase: “If you go there and click on ‘Artist Interviews’ and what I like to do is actually transcribe the podcasts so people can read it.”
Brother Ali: “That’s really cool.”
Chase: ‘It makes it more searchable too. So it’s more of an event our interviews here for DOPEfm. So, I think we should play another track. I kind of what to play the one that has Phonte from Little Brother.”
Gamma Krush: “Here I am”
Chase: “Yeah from BK-One.”
Brother Ali: “Let’s do it.”
Chase: “Okay, this is ‘Here I am’ from BK-One. Gamma Krush spin that track and we’ll be right back.”
Brother Ali: “Here I am is me, Phonte, and The Grouch. Me and Slug have a song on that album, and me and Scarface have a song on that album too.”
Gamma Krush: “Dope album by the way.”
Bk-One: “Thanks man, I appreciate it.”
That’s all for today folks. This interview aired this past weekend on CFMU 93.3 fm in Hamilton, Ontario Canada. TONIGHT overnight you can hear even more as we continue to talk to Brother Ali and his DJ BK-One. You can listen live starting at 12:00 a.m. Saturday Nights / Sunday Mornings from the station’s website.
Please download this interview, pass it along to your friends and spread the word. Brother Ali is an amazing artist and a super-cool dude. It was an honour to meet him and to hang out with him backstage before the concert. I have been a big fan for sometime now and I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to speak to some of my heroes in hip-hop.
I loved this interview and I especially loved when Brother Ali commented that it was his favourite interview in a long time as well. It lets me know that we’re doing something right here at DOPEfm and at chasemarch.com. I hope you’ve been enjoying this as much as I have. Thanks for tuning it.
Music Playlist at MixPod.com
Missed Part 1 or Part 2? Go back and read them. And don’t forget to download the podcast for free. The podcast contains the entire hour’s interview and you only need to download that once to hear it. I only break the transcripts up into separate parts because they are a little too long to put it all into one blog post.
Without further ado, here is Part 3 of the interview transcript.
Chase: “I’ve noticed that you’ve been popping up on quite a few records here and there. You’ve been getting guest appearances and things like that, so is there anybody you haven’t worked with yet that you’d really like the opportunity to?”
Brother Ali: “There’s three of them and I’ll give it to you in order of how bad I want to do it. I want to work with ?uestlove more than anything in the world cause I think that we would make something that’s never been made before in any kind of music but especially in rap. We would make something truly incredible. He’s very busy and he’s got things much better to do with his time but in my heart of hearts, that is what I’d like.
I’d like to do something with Cat Stevens, his name is Yusuf Islam now. I think that would be really beautiful. And Johnny Winter.”
Chase: “I’m not familiar with Johnny Winter.”
Brother Ali: “Johnny Winter is an albino guy from down south, from Texas who studied the blues and fell in love with the blues and became one of the great blues guitarists and singers. And he was from a generation younger than the guys considered the golden age guys like Son House and Robert Johnson, and Muddy Waters, but they actually embraced him. And he ended up producing some of Muddy Waters later albums and touring together and things like that. He’s still out here performing and he’s really incredible. Me and him just have so much in common. I really don’t ever have to make anything with him, I just want to meet him, talk with him, and learn from him.”
Chase: “Very cool. Have you ever ghostwritten?”
Brother Ali: “Yes. I ghostwrote a song called ‘Original Prankster’ for my son who was six years old at the time and its on me and BK-One’s mix CD called ‘Off the Record.’ And if you look in the Internet, there’s a battle MTV filmed an aired where my son Faheem is battling my bog brother Slug from Atmosphere and legend has it that I might have had something to do with the verses he says against my friend Slug.”
Chase: “That’s awesome.”
Brother Ali: “But I would really like to do it. There’s been times where I’ve though about asking Slug to write something for me. I would do something that he wrote for me. But one of the things I like about rap and hip-hop is that the writing is an integral part of it. So it not’s just to say how well can you say this rhyme but the mind that wrote that, along with the voice that’s saying it, and that persona and all that. It’s a very special powerful thing that we have within hip-hop. And you can communicate more within hip-hop. maybe, is some ways, than you can with any other genre of music.”
Chase: “Yeah, I think so too. We can almost say a lot more than different genres because pop radio, they seem to be love songs most of the time, maybe country music because they can tell different kinds of stories. But I think hip-hop does have more latitude there when it comes to content.”
Brother Ali: “Well, when it comes to hip-hop, it’s a music based on incorporating other genres of music. So musically, every type of music is in hip-hop. Country is in hip-hop, blues are in hip-hop, jazz is in hip-hop, funk is in hip-hop, soul, latin music, African music, ya know, everything is in hip-hop musically.
If you write out the lyrics to a hip-hop song it’s three pages long, whereas the average pop song can be written on one napkin. Now there’s a case to be made on the other end too that when words are gone like in jazz music. Within jazz music, the way that the horn sounds or the choices that are made there communicate on a more profound plane. So you can make the case either way. But when you’re just talking about lyricism and verbally communicating, no other type of music beats hip-hop.”
Chase: “I think so too. One of the interesting discussions I’ve had on my blog, and I have like a hundred comments on this post, is that rap is not music. I wrote that post in response to a discussion I had with a fellow teacher who told me that rap music is an oxymoronic term because rap isn’t music. I’d like to hear what you have to say on this topic.”
Brother Ali: “Every great form of music started off with people who didn’t really relate to it and didn’t understand it, saying that it wasn’t music. Every great form of music. They said, jazz wasn’t music and jazz is actually the most innovative and creative music ever in the history of the world. They said that blues wasn’t music. They said that rock and roll wasn’t music.
I guarantee that whoever said that, whatever music they think they love, ‘cause you don’t say something like that unless you have a disconnect with what music is. But whatever music they think they love, the most authentic form of it was called ‘not music’”
Chase: “That’s cool, ‘cause I don’t think we actually think about that. Like Elvis and The Beatles and jazz and people are still saying that the Beatles are amazing but when they came out they were controversial and people were-”
Brother Ali: “And if you look at what music The Beatles were emulating, what music Elvis was emulating and in some cases stealing-”
Gamma Krush: “Black soul music and blues”
Brother Ali: “All those guys were really inspired by blues and the artists themselves revered the blues and were so inspired by it, the great ones were. And then you got guys that were just stealing it and living it up and really loving the fact that you could steal black music and just redo it based on the fact that you’re white was why people would love it and support it and call you great. But you had great people like Elvis and like The Beatles in particular and they were just inspired by it and wanted to add to it. They just wanted to participate in it.
But, yeah, The Beatles were called not music. People definitely were not respecting people like Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters and Son House and Alvin Wolf and the people that they were inspired by. So you can’t spend a lot of time worrying about people that don’t understand what you’re doing.”
Chase: “Yeah, I think one of the major misunderstandings of it is that people say there is no melody to rap. But I argue that flow is kind of melody. I mean, rappers aren’t monotone. Your voice is still going up and down.”
Brother Ali: “Well, there’s a variety and you can say that some hip-hop doesn’t have much musical value. In particular a lot of underground hip-hop doesn’t have much musical value in my mind. I think that Ludacris has a lot more musical value than a half a dozen underground superstars that I can name. But these are people that don’t understand what they’re hearing and all you can do is wish that their lives would be enriched by this beautiful thing, but what are you gonna do. I’m sure they get joy out of a lot of things that I would have difficulty finding joy in.”
Chase: “So you’re touring like crazy and I always like to ask this question to people who are on long tours, ‘What are you reading right now? Did you bring a book with you?’”
Brother Ali: “Ya know, it’s tough for me to read on tour. It’s tough for me to read in general because I’m legally blind. So I read really slow. My eyes move really slow but my brain is really fast so my brain gets really frustrated with me eyes when I try to sit down and read something. And when I’m on the road, it’s damn near impossible. But I do books on tape and I listen to speeches and I listen to talk show kind of things like Tavis Smiley, Bill Maher, National Public Radio, things like that.
But tour is the time where I get to actually sit and digest music. There’s a difference between listening to music for the surface value of it and then trying to live with something and completely digest what somebody is saying. Erykah Badu put a brand new album out and because I’m away from my family, I get to actually sit down and really digest it. She’s a true artist. You have to think about things you wouldn’t normally thing about when you listen to other music. You think about ‘why did the snare drum all of a sudden change sounds right there?’ and ‘what does that mean?’ and ‘why did she do it that way,’ and what’s she trying to communicate to me with that?’ That’s what I do on tour that I don’t get to do normally.
Chase: “Interesting. The other interesting thing is on your ‘Truth is Here’ EP, I forget what song it is, it might be the first one where you say ‘If I wake up in a bed that’s mine, I’m disoriented.’ It’s like ‘I’m more used to be on the road than I am being at home.’”
Brother Ali: “There are years of our lives where that really is true. That’s something that I say on a new song that I just made too, ‘Wake up in your own bed and don’t know where you are.’ I don’t think people who haven’t experienced that can really comprehend what a sacrifice that is, to have your own space but to not be at home there. To wake up and to say, ‘Well, why isn’t this a hotel?’
I’m married and I’m very faithful to my wife so I wake up sometimes at home and I will freak out. Like, why is there a woman in bed with me? I’ve woke up in my bed, with my wife, and said, ‘Oh my God, what did I do?’ and go into the bathroom and say, ‘Oh man, I have these same things in my bathroom,’ ya know what I mean, and be awake for five minutes before I realize, ‘It’s okay, you’re at your house.’ If you haven’t experiences that, I don’t think you can really appreciate how unnerving that is. That’s very true.”
Chase: “That’s something for the fans to really think about because I’m always saying this on the air as often as I can, if there’s an artist that you respect that’s coming to town, go to their concerts. You probably make more money in concerts than you do in album sales.”
Brother Ali: “Well, yeah because people don’t buy the album. If people bought the album, that situation would be remedied right away. But downloading is what it is. Matter of fact, on brotherali.com, one of the very first posts I made on there, I did a ten-minute little conversation on video about downloading. Really what it comes down to is not to say, ‘Well, you owe us money’ because the reality if that we would like you to get the real experience. We would like this music, if it means something to you, to really be part of your life in a significant way. So when you buy the music and you own it, and we’re seeing a resurgence in vinyl sales because I think people are dissatisfied and unfulfilled with having an MP3 that lives on your phone or lives in a computer or something. And actually want to own something that you can hold, that you have a collection that lives in your home.”
Chase: “That’s exactly true, because I was just speaking to a DJ/producer Lucy’Lo from Toronto here and he said the same thing. He’s like, ‘What do you own when you own an MP3? It’s this invisible thing that you can’t do anything with other than listen to. It’s really just on your computer and what happens if your computer dies? It’s gone right.”
Brother Ali: “I had a computer stolen from me and I lost a lot of really important treasures that I thought I owned. I had a lot of old recordings, bootleg home recordings from my heroes on hip-hop, live shows, Treacherous 3 live from 1982.”
Chase: “Oh wow!”
Brother Ali: “and my computer got stolen and that stuff is just gone. Hopefully I get it again but who knows?”
Chase: “Oh man, that’s a shame.”
Gamma Krush: “Was it stolen out of your home?”
Brother Ali: “Nah, stolen at a show. That same song that you referenced, ‘Somebody made away with my ___ ___ computer.’ Yeah, somebody stole my computer out of a club in San Francisco. I had demos for everything that I had ever done, the homemade demos that me and Ant made, all of it just gone.”
Chase: “That’s a shame. I know a lot of people would like to get a hold of your first tape and I think you’ve said that there’s no way you’re gonna get that anymore.”
Brother Ali: “Initially I was concerned with, I didn’t want people to buy ‘The Undisputed Truth’ or buy ‘Us’ or buy ‘Shadows on the Sun,’ and say, ‘Oh I like this guy’s music, let me go buy his other stuff.’ Because I’m comfortable with the fact that if you spend the $9 or $12 or whatever it is to buy my music, I feel confident about what you get in return.
‘Rites of Passage’ was a demo tape. That’s when I was local, I was thinking very local. I was writing as a local rapper. And as a local tape in the year 2000 when it came out, it was damn good. Ya know what I mean, I made it all myself, it’s all my own vision, all my own work, and for what it was, I felt good about it. But people not understanding that, I don’t want them to buy that thinking that they’re gonna get something on the level of ‘Shadows on the Sun’ or ‘Undisputed Truth’ or ‘Us’ and they end up with something very different. That was my initial concern. Now I just like the fact that I have something that’s hard to find. So I’m just gonna leave it like that.
There was 1000 tapes that we made in 2000 at that was it. I didn’t even have one for a long time. My DJ BK-One gave me one because he had a few of them. And when ‘The Champion’ EP came out we made 1000 CD copies for people who bought that EP. So there are 1000 tapes, 1000 CDs. If you look around on eBay sometimes people sell them. If you look around on whatever illegal download program you use, people have it.”
Chase: “Yeah, it’s so easy to find stuff these days.”
Brother Ali: “Or if you do something extremely nice for me, I might send you a zip file of it. I’ve done that too. I’ve sent people a zip file of it that do something above and beyond.”
Chase: “That’s cool.”
Brother Ali has to be one of the coolest people I have ever met. We had an amazing discussion last week before his concert in Toronto. This is Part 2 of that interview. You can download it for free from the DOPEfm page or read along with it here. If you missed Part 1 of the transcript, you can go back and read it here.
Chase: “How do you go about the songwriting process? Do you work with certain producers? Do you write to the beat?”
Chase: “Alright that was ‘Good Lord.’ Nice, nice track there. Brother Ali. I want to touch on some of the lyrics in there. You’ve got some really positive lyrics in there. One of them is ‘How ya gonna hate me for being what God made me?’ and in a lot of your songs, you talk about your spirituality and I know that’s really important to you. But one of the things that really struck me in this one too is talking about differences because some people might be scared of Brother Ali and Islam or things like that ‘cause we don’t understand it. Some people don’t understand other languages and there’s kind of fear around there.
But one of your lyrics, it just echoed with me, ‘What language do you laugh in?’ That brings it all together right there, doesn’t it? Pretty much every laugh is the same. There’s no language of laughter. And then you go further in there and you say, ‘What language are the tears when they’re falling from your eyes?’”
Brother Ali: “And it’s interesting, I actually said that wrong in the studio. The way I wrote it is, “What language do you laugh in?’ and then it was supposed to say, ‘What religion are the tears when they’re falling from your eyes?’ That’s what I meant to say but I just got in the studio and said it wrong and Ant doesn’t really listen to my lyrics so he didn’t catch it, ya know what I mean? He listens to the mood of what I’m saying.
That song is addressing both sides of an issue. I have a lot of Muslims that criticize me for either making music at all or for how real and raw I am in my music. Like I mentioned earlier, I have songs where I need to show you that I’m not just all around a great, nice person; that I’m also a jerk. I want you to be able to believe every part of it. So there are Muslims who say, ‘I like these songs, but I don’t like those songs,’ or some people don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be making hip-hop music at all.
And then on the other side, like I said, there are people who rebel so hard against any type of institutional anything, ya know what I mean? They hate institutions and they hate power. They don’t want to hear anything about any religion because in their mind that represents somebody trying to tell them what to do.
I’m kind of in between both of those sides. And what I’m saying to both of them, is that in its purist form, these things are really the same. Music, spirituality, these are all the human beings inner-most core, what we call in spirituality the soul or the energy that lives inside us trying to connect with the energy that’s in other people and in the world. It’s all really this music, prayer, meditation, ya know, celebrating. All of these things all come from the same place within us.
The thing that makes a person want to come to a concert and clap and experience this feeling with everybody else is the same thing that makes my uncle go to church on Sunday. It’s the same thing that makes me go to the mosque on Friday. It’s all the same thing of wanting to connect with something bigger and positive outside of ourselves.”
Chase: “Yeah, and I think that’s what the creative process is about ideally as well. I think everyone needs an avenue to be able to create.”
Brother Ali: “I agree.”
Chase: “And you said, ‘Let a painter, paint or a poet describe it’ so you’re even talking about that in the song we just heard too. I think everybody needs some kind of outlet, whether we’re producing segments for the radio here or blogging or whatever you do.”
Brother Ali: “Well. yeah. There are garbage collectors who express themselves through what they do. There are people who, in what we think, would be a very mundane job who take a certain pride in what they’re doing and it says something about who they are as a man, or as a woman, or as a person. There are people who express themselves in the way they raise their children, people who express themselves in the way they do everything. I agree with you 100%.”
Chase: “Definitely. Another lyric in that song, ‘I’m so beautifully human and I’m proud of it.’ I just like the positivity there. It just brings everything together.”
Brother Ali: “I think that’s the main reason why people like me or like my music. I think that I’m pretty good at rapping. The music I make is pretty good but maybe not necessarily better than anybody else. I think what people get from me in particular is that they see how different I am but how comfortable I am. Ya know what I mean, that I’m so comfortable that it makes them comfortable. You can be around somebody who’s so nervous that they make you nervous. But I think people register that I’m so comfortable and enthusiastic about just being who I am, that it makes them feel that way. I think people come away feeling better about themselves or the challenges they face and what’s unique about them.”
Last week, I was honoured to meet one of my heroes in hip-hop, Brother Ali. We sat down before his show in Toronto and had a nice conversation for over an hour. He then took to the stage and rocked the house. It was an amazing night!
I hope you enjoy this interview as much as we did. You can download it for free from the DOPEfm page or stream it with the player below. I have also transcribed it here for you.
Chase: “Alright everybody this is Chase March and I am very excited because tonight is the Brother Ali concert. I’ve been a fan of this dude for a long time and it’s awesome to be sitting beside him right now. How ya doing Brother Ali?”
Brother Ali: “I’m doing great man, happy to be in Toronto.”
Chase: “Nice! So, you’ve been touring a lot lately. You were just in the U.K. weren’t ya?”
Brother Ali: “I just did a month in Europe. Prior to that, I did two months in the U.S. Now I’m doing another two months in Canada and the spots in the U.S. that I didn’t get at in the last tour. Then I go home for a couple weeks and go right back to Europe again. Get done with that, then we go to Australia and then come back for a couple weeks again and then we do the U.S. again and start all over.”
Chase: “Wow! That must be really tough because even from your lyrics we can see that you’ve got a new baby girl, it says on the new record. So how’s that being away from your family? Are you able to bring them with you sometimes?”
Brother Ali: “I don’t bring them with me that often. I just had a show in Hawaii. We just had one show but I took my wife and children to Hawaii and we stayed there for a week and just had some good, quality time together. It’s difficult, man. Everything in life is a balance. You have to do everything in balance.
So I’m having to balance between the two main things in my life that I love, that I wish I could dedicate a hundred percent of my time to but I just realistically can’t. I would love to give all my time to my music and just completely jump in head first, ya know what I mean? Like people like Kayne and ?uestlove and guys like that, they live their music 24 hours a day, that’s all they do. I would love to do that.
I would also love to be a stay-at-home dad, ya know what I mean. But the truth is that I can’t do either one of those. So I have to balance them. And when I’m home, I’m able to spend a lot of time with my kids and with my family. I either work while my kids are at school and then see them in the morning and at night, or I work all night when they’re in bed and see them in the morning and at night. But when I’m at home, all of their free time is me.
Chase: “That’s awesome. So when you’re at home, you’re at home and just get to spend time there, that’s great.”
Brother Ali: “Also when I’m at home I have to make new music ‘cause otherwise new albums would never come, ya know? So either while they’re in bed or at school, that’s when I get my work done.”
Chase: “Nice! Last summer, the album for me was the ‘Truth is Here’ E.P. I had that on blast the entire summer. And then when I saw your video for ‘Us,’ I thought it was a teaser for the album and that was an amazing song. That song almost brings tears to my eyes because it is so powerful and the video is pretty amazing how you’re working with a choir and live instruments. I really like the message of it too. The artwork for ‘Us’ is amazing as well.”
Brother Ali: “Yeah, the credit for that goes to Siddiq who runs Rhymesayers. I switched it on him at the last minute. The name of the album was gonna be ‘Street Preacher.’ I turned the album in, it was done, and we’d done a couple of photo shoots for the ‘Street Preacher’ title. He actually came to me and said, ‘Do you think there’s something not quite right about this album?’ I said, ‘Yeah, but it’s not the music. I know it’s not the music.’ He said, ‘Do you think it might be the title?’ I said, ‘Yeah, definitely.” I changed the title to ‘Us’ and he came up with the idea to do silhouettes and he passed it on to an artists by the name of Keith Washington, who actually pulled it all together and he did a great job.”
Chase: “Yeah, I’m actually a teacher and I do this thing where I have the students respond to an image and I put that album cover up once because I wanted them to talk about the team work and they way it looks like the silhouettes are working together with triangles to build the word ‘Us’ in the middle of the air. It was interesting some of the response I got from that, they were able to pick that up. The I showed them your ‘Us’ video and we played it over and over again that one morning in my Grade 3 class. They were feeling that.”
Brother Ali: “That’s really, really cool.”
Chase: “One of my favourite tracks on this album is ‘Fresh Air’ and I’d like to drop that track right now and come back and talk to you some more.”
Brother Ali: “Let’s do it.”
Chase: “Alright so this is ‘Fresh Air’ from Brother Ali off his excellent album ‘Us.” If you don’t have that, go get it. I ran to the store when this album came out and I haven’t done that in a long time. I needed that because the album is awesome, the art work is really good, and this is my favourite track of it. This is Chase March, we’ll be right back.”
Chase: “Alright that was ‘Fresh Air’ from Brother Ali and we’re sitting with Brother Ali. How’s it going?”
Brother Ali: “It’s going great man.”
Chase: “I love the positivity in that song, ya know? Not often do you hear rappers saying how much they love their life. Usually it’s I love my car, or I love my women, but you’re talking about how you love your life.”
Brother Ali; “Well, I think they’re all parts of the same thing. What I’m saying is something really similar to what other rappers are saying, ya know, the symbols are different. For some people, their car is a symbol of them loving what they’ve achieved in their life, ya know what I mean. For me, it’s more about my family and things like that.
You know, you get one groups that comes from the desert, another groups that comes from the rainforest, the priorities are different because of what’s available to them. So people that come from the projects or the slum and they’re not supposed to ever be able to achieve a certain level of material success, which also translates to a certain level of freedom. That car is then a symbol of the obstacles they overcame. It’s not the actual car, it’s what it represents.
My situation is a little different than a Lil’ Wayne or a Jay-Z. I have the opportunity to speak about it a little differently, ya know what I mean? There’s a different way that you need to conduct yourself also when you come from that environment. You can’t be free and open and just jovial and happy because someone will rob you, literally. You need to put out an image where you’re celebrating but you also need to remind people that you’re not to be played around with. So it really has a lot more to do with the different circumstances we come from.
But I think a song like ‘Fresh Air’ isn’t that much different from some of the stuff the Kanye West does or Jay-Z or T.I. Ya know, it’s a really similar sentiment that you work hard to achieve these things that you want for yourself and you overcome your obstacles that are in your way, and then when you’re able to do that trough your hard work and diligence and patience, then you celebrate it.”
Chase: “Yeah, it’s a really positive message in all your lyrics and I can understand why a fan called you a ‘Street Preacher’ and why that was the working title of your album for a long time but the truth is, you don’t really preach.”
Brother Ali: “Not in sense that people understand the word now. The true sense of preaching means that you’re so touched and inspired and appreciative by some truth or some message that’s helped you, that you want to share it with the world. That’s what true preaching is. Preaching has come to take on a negative connotation because now we have so many examples of preachers who are hypocrites or preachers that are doing it for selfish reasons. Now that’s what preaching has come to be known as, and it’s unfortunate. True preaching is what I was talking about.”
Chase: “Nice, because some rappers want to be all positive and they come off as ‘too preachy’ and some people say, ‘I don’t wanna listen to him, ‘he’s too preachy.’”
Brother Ali: “True love and true sharing is selfless, ya know what I mean? What you gain from it is seeing other people benefit, that’s it. You don’t need somebody to say. ‘Look at, look at, look at him.’ The message doesn’t come with this idea that ‘never forget that I’m the one that gave you this, ya know what I mean? Unfortunately, people get it confused.
I’m not saying I’m 100% pure myself. But that’s why I make songs also that are about the negative side of me. That’s what I do to keep myself honest. Songs like “Bad motherf*cker Part 2.” Every one of my albums has them; “Talking my sh*t,” “Pedigree,” Champion has the first ‘Bad motherf*cker.’ Shadows on the Sun album has songs like ‘Bitchslap.’ all of my projects have one song where I’m honest about that part of myself so that I’m being completely real.”
Well, that ends Part 1 of the Brother Ali interview. Please come back tomorrow to read Part 2 of the transcript or go and download the podcast right now to listen to the rest of it. Thanks for tuning in. See you tomorrow!
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