Brother Ali’s New Song Tackles Prejudice At Home & Abroad As An American Muslim (Video)
Brother Ali, the Minneapolis MC revered for his truth-telling and lifelong pursuit of knowledge, today (March 30) debuted a timely and powerful new single at Sway in the Morning. As a practitioner of Islam since his teenage years, Ali has always placed his faith front-and-center in his music, and he is considered to be one of the most vocal defenders of Muslims around the world. All of that will play an integral role in his forthcoming album, All the Beauty in This Whole Life. On the newly unveiled “Uncle Usi Taught Me,” he tells a poignantly reflective story about a trip he took to Iran, which forced him to experience prejudice as an American in the Middle East, and, upon his return home, as a Muslim in modern-day America.
“Ultimately, this is about me learning,” Ali says while in the booth at Sway’s studio, near the 27:00 mark. “I’m not claiming to have answers for anything. But I’ve been taught so much, I’ve had so many beautiful experiences, that you have to share them. Especially if somebody gives you a mic, and especially if you get to come and visit Sway’s Universe. You have to just share what you were told.” It’s then that he debuts “Uncle Usi Taught Me,” and begins to spin the powerful tale.
In the song’s opening verse, he explains that he was in Iran, where he took part in a conference to talk about “the cops and their nonsense, and how they like to hunt Black folk with no conscience/And now they want to preach human rights, it’s preposterous.” He continues with the story in the second verse, describing the hostility felt towards Americans by some of the people he encountered, despite his being a fellow Muslim. “Friday, we greet each other at the mosque, but here there’s only one, and the government preacher talks/What struck me as odd, but nothing could prepare me for/A big ass mob shouting ‘death to America’/It felt like somebody talkin’ ’bout my mama, wait/It’s all real, but I’ma still feel some type of way/You mean the system, and I’m with you on that/But you have to be more specific than that/You ain’t talkin’ ’bout the families getting whipped in the back,” he raps in reference to the historical chapter of slavery (and likely the systemic, more subversive form that continues in America to this day).
Brother Ali goes on to describe what it was like being targeted in Iran for his music and for being an American, a country in which people can be jailed for self expression that is deemed heretical. He details the death threats he received, as well as the general feeling of suspicion he found himself shrouded in. Also touched on are the American sanctions on Iran, and his difficulty leaving the country to go back home. However, he soon realized that coming back to America did not mean safe haven from prejudice. “Stuck in the airport, three days, wondering if I’m even safe/’Til I got a seat on that plane/Now imagine my exhausted embarrassment, I got back to America/They interrogate me like a terrorist, really?”
At the top of the interview, Brother Ali discusses the personal injustices he and his family have suffered as Muslims in America, and elsewhere he shares a more of the powerful story about Iran. All the Beauty in This Whole Life arrives May 5.