I want to play a track off of ‘Shadows on the Sun’ right now. I want to play ‘Room With a View’ because I really like that one, unless you wanted to hear something else.”
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.