Sound: Like many hip-hop albums, there’s an abundance of funk and soul—blaring horns, groovin’ basslines, wicky and bendy guitar—but the majority of these sounds are created with live instrumentation—instead of samples—which gives the album a fresh and invigorating energy.
Vocals/Lyrics: As usual, Brother Ali grabs the mic as a fiery preacher delivering inspiring sermons, entertaining anecdotes and sobering facts. But his hearty and heart-felt vocals sound more uplifting and inspired than ever before, and much of the reason seems to be that his life is in a better place—re-married, new child, homeowner, successful rapper—which he occasionally touts. He also, though, tackles many heavy, larger issues with impressive dexterity, including slavery and its impact in the U.S. today, the confusion of growing up in a broken family and being bussed into the suburbs for school, inner-city violence and domestic abuse.
Heavy Rotation tracks: “The Travelers (Top 20 Songs of 2009 Candidate); “The Preacher”; “House Keys”; “Babygirl”; “Fresh Air”
Medium Rotation tracks: “Bad Mufucker Pt. II”; “Tight Rope”; “Slippin’ Away”
Recommended: Brother Ali’s been one of the strongest underground MCs of the past few years, and he’s made his best album yet with Us. In fact, it’s one of the best hip-hop albums of the year. His lyrics always run the risk of being overbearing and preachy, but his conviction, insight and riveting flow make him far too captivating to ignore.
Grade: A- (Strong Top 20 Albums of 2009 Candidate)