Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley and Brad Kopplin
One absolute certainty, if you speak with hip-hop artists from the heyday, aka the beginning, when Run-DMC, Too Short and Slick Rick were who we pledged allegiance to, is that the most interesting and yet worn-out question posed to them is some variation on, "What are your thoughts on the current state of hip-hop?" They'll foam and ramble off into a 30-minute answer explaining what they see as a cataclysmic decline in quality. They'll all tell you - Ghostface, Guru, Gza, Rza, KRS-One, all of them - that those bringing in the cash money are poseurs, scamming their lyrics about booties and blinging grills because, these days, everyone loves a copycat. Those copycats sell. They hop the backs of the other farcical interpretations of the trend, where cars and girls and money and material possessions are the only subjects that are substantial enough to demand the ever lucrative dance floor dollar.
Funnily enough, a song about good ol' money-having and broad-nailing appeals universally to the white boys, the black boys, the white girls, the black girls, the Mexicans, the rich and the poor, so those songs continue to perpetuate themselves like gremlins at the doom's hour. After a big meal, who can stop them? The capitalism takes the reigns and it's a smooth ass ride to the sweaty flesh-on-flesh demographic that has all the expendable income.
Brother Ali, the brilliant and big (small fridge-sized MC), Albino from Minneapolis is one of the many Rhymesayers crew members who believe that hip-hop can still be about the things that really matter. He believes that the actualities of life are worthy of song and when hip-hop doesn't address them - who else the fuck will? His latest release by -- The Undisputed Truth -- is out this week and it unleashes the vipers. He again refuses to hold anything back, calling taxes the effective funding of crack heads (the government full of addictive warmongers) and giving the U.S. a new catchphrase, "Welcome to the United Snakes/Land of the thieves and home of the slaves." He demands to be heard, but we need him more than he needs us.