The new album All the Beauty in This Whole Life from Rhymesayers’ Brother Ali opens with “Pen to Paper.” It’s a song that starts in “Reagan Times” with his childhood discovery of rap. Working as an accelerated autobiography, the lyrics follow the rapper’s teenage conversion to Islam through the trajectory of his career. Ali says, “When I was 13 I met KRS. He put me on a stage, suggested I read up on Malcolm X. You know the rest.”
The track features some choice turntablism and a beat with minimal drums. It’s a fitting introduction to the new LP, which is a solid collection of music, with real talk and humorous asides. Highlights include the heartfelt worries of Brother Ali the father and funny-sad TSA stories from the man whose beliefs and travel itineraries put him one notch away from being no longer allowed to fly.
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