October 8, 2012 by Sarah M
Minneapolis hip hop artist Brother Ali kicked off the tour for his politically charged new album “Mourning in America, Dreaming in Color” with a weekend-long celebration that included two sold-out shows at First Avenue and a day of free activities in North Minneapolis.
On Friday and Saturday night, Brother Ali turned in a pair of lengthy, high-energy sets that leaned heavily on material from the new album while mixing in songs from his 10-year career. His new live band Blank Tape Beloved added some bouncy depth to the music, and Ali’s enthusiasm for his hometown crowd shone through on every song. Near the end of each show, Ali was joined on stage by fellow hometown hip hop hero Slug from Atmosphere, who traded a few quick verses with Ali before ceding the spotlight back to the headliner. To close each show, Ali invited opening acts The Reminders and Homeboy Sandman back on stage for a festive, partying version of “Truth Is” before a final request for all in the audience to wish peace upon one another.
The raucous show-ending number would have been the clear highlight of the upbeat, crowd-pleasing set, were it not for the arresting performance of the song “Mourning in America” at the center of the show. Driven by a haunting, driving backing track, Brother Ali rapped about the thin line between warfare, terrorism, bullying and all other forms of violence as three women clad in full burqas popped and locked at the center of the stage. See the official video for the song here (contains very strong imagery).
On Sunday, Brother Ali played host to the second annual “Day of Dignity” festival at the Masjid An-Nur mosque in North Minneapolis, which claims both Ali and Rep. Keith Ellison as members. At the event, designed to draw visitors into North Minneapolis and show a friendlier side of the neighborhood, visitors were treated to a free concert by Atmosphere, Brother Ali and other hip hop acts. Social service providers were on hand to distribute free food, clothes, haircuts and other services to those in need. Tours of the mosque were also available.