Cultural Arts Review- Brother Ali’s “Tight Rope”

Posted on November 5, 2012 by


Brother Ali is a very interesting man. He is a rapper from the Minneapolis area, 35 years old, and has a rare condition known as Albinism. He practices Islam, and has for the past 19 years. In his songs he includes many controversial topics and is not afraid to speak his mind. He often questions the government and society we’ve created for ourselves here in America, like in the song “Uncle Sam Goddamn”. Many musicians are too afraid to be as bold as Brother Ali and speak out against most of his potential listeners, which is why we have so many terrible songs on the radio singing about an idealistic guy/girl or a romantic hookup. It’s so rare that you will hear music like Brother Ali’s on the radio.

The song by Brother Ali that I’d like to focus on here is called “Tight Rope” off of his album titled “Us”. Now this song is only three and a half minutes long, yet it covers three controversial topics well enough to make you reflect upon them in that short period of time. In his first verse he raps about the difficulties of being a Muslim in the United States. The culture and society of the melting-pot that is the USA forgot to include Islam and the Muslim culture along with the rest of them inside the pot. Generally, Americans don’t understand and completely tolerate the Muslim faith. It is foreign to many Americans, and leaves them feeling uncomfortable. A line that shows this misunderstanding and intolerance would be:

“Spit and insult ya cause they have been here longer
He leave his crib he guaranteed the pigs approach ya
Where ya going where ya from any weapons on ya?
Your family is stressed out your getting older
You don’t live the way they did back in Somalia”

Along with Americans not understanding the Muslim culture, Muslims in America are affected by the ‘sinister’ American pop culture, and it is challenging for Muslims to keep their Muslim faith and practices while still fitting in with the rest of America. It seems like Muslims have to choose one path or the other, there is no middle road, which explains the title of “Tight Rope”. You have to balance between two mutually exclusive lifestyles, which is nearly impossible.

The second topic that Brother Ali covers is growing up in broken homes. He comments on the struggles of having your parents split up and how the kids’ lives are forever altered for the worse. They lose their sense of ‘home’ and ‘family’. Fortunately I personally have never had to go through my parents getting divorced, but I can only imagine what it would be like when Brother Ali says things like:

“Bounce from his house to her house
Too bad that marriage didn’t work out
Now you don’t have a your house
Daddy fighting mommy they both tell me they love me
If I get to close to one the other one start acting funny”

The last topic he covers are the struggles of being gay in today’s society. Some struggles Brother Ali covers are things such as hiding your sexuality to fit in to constructed gender-roles, disapproving parents, and self-loathing fueled by an intolerant society. This issue seems to be a very common topic in today’s society with the marriage amendment coming up in two days. An example of society’s intolerance would be these lyrics:

“He has girlfriends but doesn’t want a girlfriend
He retreats inside himself
Where he lives life itself in secret
Daddy says people go to hell for being
What he is and he certainly believes them
Cause there ain’t no flame that can blaze enough
To trump being hated for the way you love”

Brother Ali continues to amaze me with his righteous lyrics and boldness to say what many are thinking but are too afraid to speak up. If you’ve never heard of him, I suggest you listen to some of his songs, they’re nothing like what you would hear on the radio.

“Tight Rope”:

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