Brother Ali. Photos by Maddy Fox for MPR.
Last night, Brother Ali’s The Own Light Tour came to a memorable end at First Avenue. The show came roughly 17 years after Ali first performed in the Mainroom, back in 2000, when he opened for labelmates Atmosphere.
The newest addition to the Rhymesayers roster, Sa-Roc, joined Brother Ali for the whole tour. She started the show off with upbeat rhymes over beats from recent J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar classics, which showcased her ability to hang with any of the emcees currently coming up in the industry. The performance was quite literally fresh, as she walked onto stage while burning a bushel of sage. DJ Sol Messiah was holding down the 1s and 2s in the background, changing the beat up at all the right times. Sa Roc ended her set with possibly her best song of the night, one she says she wants to include on an upcoming album.
A couple weeks in advance of the show, Brother Ali was excited to announce that Immortal Technique was going to be a special guest performer at his tour’s homecoming show. Joined by New York’s own DJ Static, Immortal Technique started his set off by playing “Industrial Revolution,” one of the most popular tracks from his catalogue. It was clear he has plenty of supporters in Minnesota, as there were many people sporting his AK-47 logo t-shirts. The crowd rapped word-for-word with other classic punchline-heavy, socially-conscious songs from Technique’s catalog.
After DJ Last Word got the crowd primed for the headlining performance, Brother Ali came out looking dapper, starting his set off with some raps over the bass-heavy “Pen to Paper,” followed by his recent single “Own Light (What Hearts Are For).” The audience seemed to resonate with the endearing tone Brother Ali is looking to convey in these new songs. However, this did not stop him from playing some throwbacks with Ant. The entire dance floor had two hands high while shouting the chorus to Ali’s song “Truth Is” from The Undisputed Truth. Everyone in the building, bartenders and First Ave staff included, were singing along with his breakout song “Forest Whitaker” from Shadows on the Sun.
Brother Ali brought Sa-Roc back out on stage to do some a cappella raps, following Sa-Roc’s feature on “We Got This” from All the Beauty in This Whole Life. Perhaps it was a natural result of touring across the country together, but Brother Ali and Sa-Roc had very good performance chemistry on stage together for this pinnacle of the night.
After an impassioned testimony from Brother Ali about the beauty of uniqueness, and the imperativeness of securing global peace, they performed “Can’t Take That Away” from the new record. Last Word and Ali brought it back one last time, closing their encore performance with the title-track from “Us.”
Brother Ali setlist
“Pen to Paper”
“Own Light (What Hearts Are For)”
“Pray for Me”
“Out of Here”
“Uncle Sam Goddamn”
“Out of Here”
“It Ain’t Easy”
“Take Me Home”
“Blah Blah Blah”
“All The Beauty In This Whole Life”
“Can’t Take That Away”
Writer Adrian Williams is a music business major at Augsburg University, musician, and current president of KAUG. Photographer Maddy Fox is a student at the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities.