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Brother Ali: A Voice For The Suffering

Brother Ali's fifth studio album, <em>Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color</em>, came out last week.
Courtesy of the artist
Brother Ali's fifth studio album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, came out last week.

Rapper and activist Brother Ali has just released his fifth studio album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, which was created during a self-imposed two-month exile. A practicing Muslim, Ali writes that he was renewed and inspired by a pilgrimage to Mecca, as well as the Occupy movements and uprisings in the Middle East.

The songs on Ali's new record combine messages of hope with no-holds-barred stories of the disenfranchised. As the title implies, it strikes a balance of mourning and dreaming, as Ali invites listeners to take action.

"We are at a time of really extreme social misery and suffering and pain," Brother Ali tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "And so half of what I do on my album is focus on how bad things really are for a lot of people who are suffering silently."

While the album's cover could stir up controversy — it depicts Ali kneeling in prayer on the American flag — Ali says he intends no disrespect.

"It was meant to be a literal depiction of the album title," he says. "That the things that we believe about our country — freedom, justice, equality, life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, all people being equal — that these things are on the ground, these things are suffering, and so I am kneeling and praying for it. The meaning behind kneeling in this reverent way and praying is only a problem if [people] have believed this lie that somehow being a Muslim and being an American are mutually exclusive."

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