unJUST Gives Brother Ali’s 8th Album “Love & Service” a Warm, Unquantized Sound (Album Review)

Minneapolis, Minnesota activist & battle emcee Brother Ali teaming up with Oakland, California producer unJUST for his 8th full-length LP only 4 & a half years after the Evidence-produced Secrets & Escapes. Exploding within the underground off his 2003 sophomore effort Shadows in the Sun & of course his 2007 follow-up The Undisputed Truth, he would continue this string of acclaimed releases with Us as well as the Jake One-produced Mourning in America & Dreaming in Color and All the Beauty in This Whole Life. Can’t forget to mention Ali’s debut EP Champion turning 20 in a couple weeks & his debut mixtape Left in the Deck either. It’s been a few years since we last heard from him on his 4th EP Brother Minutester which marked his departure from Rhymesayers Entertainment after nearly 2 decades. So with Love & Service being his first album through his very own label Traveler’s Media, that & seeing some of the features nevertheless kept me interested.

After the “Chapter 1” intro, the first song “Ottomans” is a boom bap opener welcoming y’all to the extravaganza & informing everyone listening that they’re now rockin’ with a true & living master except the “mumble rap” jabs are cringe since this isn’t 2016 anymore whereas “Awaken” mixes together these woodwinds & strings talking about sleepwalking through our days. “The Collapse” calling out those who were dazzled by the warning signs flashing continuing to dance in the midst of it all collapsing over an instrumental with a summertime-flare, but then “Manik” featuring Aesop Rock & Casual brings the trio together getting in their battle rap bag for 4 minutes.

“Nom De Plume” kinda goes for more an uncanny atmosphere talking about part of dues having to be paid in order for him to even offer you this news making it rain blood & tears on any stage he rocks while “Cadillac” fuses these organs & guitar licks discussing his father-in-law’s titular yellow tinted whip. “Gauntlet” featuring Roc Marciano goes into a jazzier direction talking about both of them being on some other shit their whole entire lives pretty much leading into “Howlin’ Wolf” hopping over a brass sample to rock & moan much like the blues icon of the same name.

Quelle Chris joins Ali Newman for the spacious “Ghosts” pleading to not let them walk on their own just before the title track smoothly talks about how it’s all simply Love & Service at the end of the day. “Worthy” continues near the end of the album by affirming that every single one of us is worthy of love accompanied by a peppy beat & lastly to finish up Ali’s first full-length in nearly 5 years as of this upcoming fall, “Inside” finishes up the album by vulnerably talking about being unable to hold his tears back.

A good majority of Brother Ali‘s discography is exceptionally high in quality & although this isn’t one of my favorite projects from him, I still find it to be absolutely tolerable. unJUST provides a warm & unquantized sound chopping & flipping educational children’s movies from both the 70’s & 80’s using an ASR-10 sampler cohesively bedding Ali’s dense & poignant musings on God, death, empire & beauty in the process.

Score: 7/10

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Legends Will Never Die

Just a 27 year old guy from Detroit, Michigan who passionately loves hip hop culture & music as a whole

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