Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Rhymesayers Entertainment has been at the forefront of independent Hip Hop since 1995. Label owners Sean Slug Daley (one half of Atmosphere) and Brent Siddiq Sayers have stuck to their guns and built a huge and loyal fanbase whilst operating largely under the mainstream radar. Now Carhartt is proud to present some of their top artists to Europe for one of the biggest Hip Hop line-ups of the year: Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Evidence, Blueprint, and Grieves & Budo. We spoke with the arriving artists to see how they feel about Rhymesayers Entertainment, the upcoming European tour, Hip Hop, and life itself. Here is a short interview with Rhymesayers artist Brother Ali. Stay tuned for another chat with Slug of Atmosphere.
(Photo by Julian Murray)
The Rhymesayers camp is coming to Europe for the first time with a big collective of artists. What do you expect?
Brother Ali: Europe as a whole are better about appreciating art and artists of every kind. They always show a lot of love and they're usually excited that we're in their countries. Every time I'm over there, fans are asking when other artists are coming over. I think the real supporters will love seeing everyone together. Hopefully we can bring more of the crew and do it regularly.
How do you see the role of MCs and DJs in contemporary Hip Hop culture?
Brother Ali: Technology has made it so that anyone can record themselves rhymin', make beats or mix songs. Its created a flood of music and mixes and videos etc for people to have to sift through. The challenge now is to be unique in this sea of music. DJ's especially have to rely on their ear for what's good and what's just hot right now. A DJ who knows and trusts her own ear is extremely valuable because she can sift through all the music out there and show me just what I need to hear.
How do you see the future of Hip Hop music in general?
Brother Ali: The future of Hip Hop is in the Middle East and Africa. Its a perfect culture for people who have a crazy story but no resources or tools. Those cultures have strong tradition in rhythm and spoken history. I think we're gonna see a lot of amazing music come out of that part of the world.
What advice would you give to producers, rappers, DJs who are just starting out?
Brother Ali: Make 100 songs before you ask anyone outside of your circle of friends to listen and engage your music. Spend some time just making music for yourself. Do it out of love fore it and be consistent. Get some practice. Put in some hours. Then be a good person and work hard. Don't stress about what opportunities aren't presenting themselves to you, just be ready for the ones that do. Whatever is meant to be yours will come to you.
Vinyl releases are decreasing. Even big artists don't release singles on vinyl that often. Do you feel vinyl is only for collectors?
Brother Ali: We still release all of our major projects on vinyl. People always ask me to autograph the actual record where the grooves are. Shows me that a lot of people aren't putting a needle on these records and listening to them. Anyone can get any and all of their music for free now. When people buy a physical album, its because they want to own something that they can hold in their hands. In that sense, there's nothing better than vinyl.
What is the most obscure record you have in your collection and why?
Brother Ali: Its not music, but I have a collection of Table Talks from Elijah Muhammad that were recorded at his dinner table. That's a treasure to me.
(Photo by Julian Murray)
What are your hobbies beside music?
Brother Ali: Between my family, my music, and the Muslim community, I have a really full life. Lot of travel and beloved friends.
Who are the top 5 artists you are listening to right now?
Brother Ali: In terms of Hip Hop, I've been listening to Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z/Kanye, Evidence, Big KRIT, and Murs. There's so much music out that I tend to gravitate towards my friends' music.
What was the last amazing show or party that you went to and why?
Brother Ali: I was on Rock The Bells the summer of 2010 and Tribe's set was my favorite most nights. But in Baltimore they had one of the best sets I've ever seen. Truly amazing. I felt like a teenager again. Everyone in the crew was on point, they brought out Busta Rhymes. Q Tip jumped in the crowd at one point and literally lost the shorts he was wearing. He came back up and rocked the rest of the show in his drawers.
You come from Minneapolis. What are your favourite spots and secrets in your hometown that you can't find in any travel guide?
Brother Ali: Its not as much of a secret anymore, but we have a burger called the Juicy Lucy. Its a cheeseburger where the cheese is melted on the inside between two beef patties. I can only eat them a few times a year. I get them when friends come and visit from out of town. Two different spots claim to be the inventors. Matt's Bar and The Five-8 club. They're both the shit. Be prepared to take a fat nap.
When do you feel most at peace?
Brother Ali: I was blessed to go to Mecca and Madina this past year for my pilgrimage. Mecca is the most overwhelming power I've ever felt and Muhammad's Mosque in Madina was the most peaceful.
What is the most valuable thing you own?
Brother Ali: I've lost everything I owned and had to literally start over so many times in my life that I don't really hold onto possessions like that. I'm not a collector. I don't mean to say I'm not materialistic because I am. There are things in my house that I'm glad I have. I've spent too much money on material things, I just don't get attached to stuff. Only things that really touch me are gifts and things that people make for me.
Can you name us some things that you haven't done yet but you always wanted to?
Brother Ali: I want to take my family to travel abroad. Asia, Africa, Middle East, and yes Europe!
What is the best thing about being a part of Rhymesayers?
Brother Ali: I can't imagine a better scenario for a person/artist like me. The core people in Rhymesayers are family to me. They made me believe I could do this for a living and then taught me how to do it. They invest a lot in me and I love them. Really solid human beings.