Brother Ali – Own Light (What Hearts Are For)

Brother Ali’s latest album All The Beauty In This Whole Life is God’s latest gift to America. Every time he releases a new project, I swear it can’t get any better – the lyricism, flow, and heavy topics. Yet again I’m in love, sold and delivered on his relevance.

If you’re in Toronto or Detroit, you can catch him on the leg-end of his tour tonight 6/7 and tomorrow 6/8 along with the Sa-Roc aka the Goddess MC, and supporting artists Last Word and Sol-Messiah.  I was blessed to catch their show at the Santa Ana Observatory on May 17th. Sa-Roc came out clearing the space by burning sage before her hard-hitting set.  Brother Ali regaled us with new and old shit while asking us to enjoy the moment with him, not with our phones. It was a much-needed escape into conscious, reflective hip-hop that unites rather than divides.


Hip Hop is Having Her Moment

Hip hop is having her moment.

Princess Nokia and Ab-Soul talk philosophy and God through feminism.

I knew Princess Nokia was a godsend when I saw her unshaven pits in this January’s issue of Bust, with tagline “for women with something to get off their chests”.  In fact, I’ve been feeling that godsend often lately. Like when Reverie released her track “Scheming” and rapidly rapped through her third verse with a comedic twist “ho, I even sell socks!” Other favorites genuine Gavlyn, real shit Rapsody and drama class Dessa have been pulling up stops in recent years, not to mention the latest hot addition to the coveted Rhymesayers crew, Sa-Roc.

Breathe a sigh of relief because I’ll stop dragging names and get to the moral of the story – after shouting out Snow tha Product, Nitty Scott, MC and Little Simz.

Women are coming up in the big beautiful botchy world of hip hop. Big and beautiful because Hip Hop – if you don’t know, look around you. Botchy because same shit, look around you. Any movement has flaws and hip hop is a fairly new one. I’m under 30, read history of rap stars, and have debates at bars that usually end up with me laughing then sighing because a dude wants to show me his side and then his dick. I’m not here for that. That’s an example of the disappointing discussions I’ve had about feminism and hip hop.

Then comes Princess Nokia – born Destiny Frasqueri, a beauty with a brain, happy trail and conscious consideration with a voice and character like that of a hip hop nymph (clarification: not nympho, mythological goddess). Yes, that’s how I describe Princess Nokia. The first hit I heard was “Tomboy” and I loved it. When the video released, YouTube didn’t die because she is still underground yet hundreds of thousands of girls saluted themselves, Mother Earth and God – if not one and the same. This type of concept blooms from hip hop roots busting through the surface layer of expected musical content and catapulting into the sun. I can’t think of a single hip hop artist who has presented herself in such a way as she does.

“As a woman who owns that, that takes a lot of cojones. That takes a lot of balls not to be pretty and to forcibly be ugly first and then allow my beauty to shine through my ugliness.” – Princess Nokia

Their Couch Talk begins immediately by discussing Princess Nokia’s masculinity and Ab-Soul’s female-focused album Do What Thou Wilt. They speak on inspiration for their work and delicately peel off the layers to their authenticity. Princess Nokia has choice words for claiming her whole being, a proud supporter of the word bitch and honoring herself and her ghetto roots. She hails all women and men, dismissing the “squirrel meat” who try to undermine her feminist values.

Ab-Soul, born Herbert Anthony Stevens IV, is touched, touting “Love is law.” I haven’t listened to Ab-Soul much before but I will now. I plead guilty to having my guard up with men hailing women while focusing on sexuality. It’s hypocrisy when I can relate to sexuality as a sacred piece of humanity and men can’t – another godsend in epitome form. He claims we are all more androgynous, a favorite of mine, and furthers his impact.

Princess Nokia speaks of him admirably, noting how his album works to “solidify this existence in hip hop which celebrates women and celebrates other themes, not just women and women’s empowerment and feminism but you know, other aspects that normally aren’t correlated to rappers.”

Their conversation sways and settles, recognizing the need for hip hop artists to be bold. This isn’t the latest or greatest yet it is telling. A turn towards the heavens, away from heathens. A drop in the melting pot that is hip hop today, creating a concoction some of us are entirely ready for and others don’t know they need.

Thanks for reading and please repeat: Love is Law.