Ali's "Pursuit of Happyness"
Brother Ali rose to prominence in 2000 with his cassette-only debut Rites of Passage. Shadows of the Sun, his first full-legnth CD, arrived three years later. Tastemakers quickly ordained Ali a future champion. He returned with the Champion EP in 2004. Backed by Ant's trailblazing production, Champion had drumbeaters singing Ali's praise again.
In case you're wondering why hip-hop's favorite albino vanished from the spotlight afterward, well, he's been busy embarking on a personal Pursuit of Happyness—splitting from his wife of 10 years, engaging in the inevitable custody fight, battling homelessness, feuding with the government, etc.
Thankfully, Ali doesn't beat us over the head with his plight on Undisputed Truth; he uses it as an artistic crutch to deliver a barrage of blistering gems. His watchword is made obvious on "The Puzzle": "Never let your chin touch your chest in public."
Bold, Brilliant, and Balanced
A musical cocktail of Ice Cube's rage and Eminem's vulnerability, Ali's ability to channel aggression without being apathetic is the success recipe for The Undisputed Truth. When he swipes at Bush's foreign policy on "Uncle Sam Goddamn" and "Letter from the Government," he's politically salient, not preachy. His wordsmithing is as sharp as ever, "You clinically crazy/ If you think you can pay me// A figure that can make me/ slay these innocent babies." His stark honesty arouses an intimacy between performer and listener on the poignant "Walking Away," where he addresses his divorce from wifey. ("I don't love you, I don't think I ever did/And if you hadn't tried to kill me, I would've stayed for the kid.")
Ant + Ali = Undisputed Chemistry
What makes Undisputed Truth one of the best albums of 2007 is Ali's ability to breathe life into Ant's beats with ease, like a translator of oneiric symbologies. I can imagine him bragging, "Give me a beat and I'll tell you what it's saying to me." While he sometimes rhymes with an invariable tone and occasionally revisits the same topic, he more than compensates with his unwavering honesty and humor.
Ant, whose beats oscillate between thumping and soulful, produced all the songs on Undisputed Truth. Being the hardest thing this side of Just Blaze, he makes it difficult for Ali to retain the center stage at times, stealing the show on the aforementioned "Walking Away" and on the warm, colorful "Take Me Home."
The Bottom Line on Undisputed Truth
Clearly, Ali believes in hip-hop's power to transcend pain and inspire social change. So, he laced The Undisputed Truth with personal--and political--gist. The outcome is an emotionally honest album that’ll leave you scratching your head and staring at your speakers after the 56 minutes runtime is spent.Top Tracks on The Undisputed Truth
- "Freedom Ain't Free"
- "Truth Is" [ mp3 ]
- "Take Me Home"
- "Walking Away" [li"Uncle Sam Goddamn"