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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.
Brother Ali's fifth studio album, <em>Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color</em>, 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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