Cultural Arts Review

Posted on October 22, 2012 by

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Cultural Arts Review

by Joey Eikens

As of late there have been a few posts on this blog concerning Minnesota based Hip Hop artist Brother Ali. With his new album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, Ali addresses social issues with the perspective of an albino Muslim rapper from Columbia Heights Minnesota. Although Hip Hop as an art form has always been concerned with social change, Brother Ali breaks the mold by being much more politically aware than his predecessors.

Along with an increased sense of political awareness, Ali also brings many religious undertones into his work. The first single off of his new album is “Mourning in America.” This track opens with a detuned and warped version of the national anthem playing in the background. Soon after this fades out, the voice of Malcolm X giving his speech “The Ballot or the Bullet” replaces it. This particular speech goes very well with the overall religious themes of the video. Malcolm X, after a few opening words starts his speech by proclaiming “I’m still a Muslim; my religion is still Islam.” A few paragraphs later he expands on this further by saying “Although I’m still a Muslim, I’m not here tonight to discuss my religion. I’m not here to try and change your religion. I’m not here to argue or discuss anything that we differ about, because it’s time for us to submerge our differences and realize that it is best for us to first see that we have the same problem.” Although this isn’t the quote used in the sample, its sentiment mirrors Ali’s personal stance on the role religion plays in the global landscape today. He believes that people should embrace and transcend their religious differences in order to obtain a common good for the world.

Delving into the video its self we encounter two different images. The first one is the actual words in the song and the second is the visual aspect of the video. “Mourning in America” can be summed up in the verse “Who’s the true guerilla/ When the bomb on your body killing innocent civilians/ But a life is a life and a killer is a killer/ You’re at a desk chillin’ push a button kill a million.” Ali juxtaposes the image of a suicide bomber and a military official giving orders from a desk to highlight the hypocrisy of American outcry over acts of terrorism while we ourselves are involved in murder. The lyrics in the song are not highly religious, but this does not stop Brother Ali from incorporating religious images into the video. The most noticeable example of religious imagery is the women wearing all black Hijabs (traditional female garb in the Middle East). These women occur multiple times in the video and could symbolize members of the Muslim community mourning over the loss of loved ones at the hands of the American military.

Although the video for “Mourning in America” may be polarizing to some political groups, Brother Ali’s bold stance is very easily admired. The various religious connotations employed by his video and the song itself work to strengthen his argument and better define his perspective.

Works Cited

http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/speeches/malcolm_x_ballot.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKHsGh-y8d8

http://rhymesayers.com/jakeone/news/

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