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Brother Ali at The Wild Buffalo in Bellingham 

Brother Ali has been a staple in the hip hop community for over 15 years now. Despite endorsements from rap luminaries like Rakim, having Justin Timberlake fanboy out at one of his shows, and garnering acclaim from artists and fans of all genres, Ali has remained steadfastly independent and tied to Minneapolis mainstay Rhymesayers Entertainment. The fact that he was able to completely sell out the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham, WA on a freakin' Tuesday (Halloween, no less) speaks volumes about his continued staying power and relevance in the scene. And, his 15 years of performance experience culminated in one of the most focused, energetic rap shows I've been to in a long while.

Ali undertook his latest tour, The Own Light Tour, to promote his new album, All the Beauty in This Whole Life. While his 90 minute set included a fair amount of cuts from that effort, Ali also took time to revisit tracks from Shadows on the Sun, The Undisputed Truth, and Us. Seeing a capacity audience of 20 and 30 year-olds, fully decked out in Halloween costumes, rap along to the "You don't gotta love me" chorus of "Forest Whitaker" - one of the greatest musical anthems of embracing imperfections - was truly a sight to behold.

But while Ali's a seasoned pro at bringing energy to a raucous crowd, perhaps his greatest strength is being able to parlay that power into moments of quiet introspection, inviting the audience to pause and reflect on the beauty and magic this life has to offer. There aren't many artists, in any genre, who'd be able to unite the audience in reciting a prayer for unity in a foreign language directly on the heels of inciting them to waive their arms back and forth in unison.

That's Ali in a nutshell. That's what makes his music, and his live show, so special.

For remaining dates on Brother Ali's The Own Light tour, check www.rhymesayers.com

Photos // Words by Alexander Hallett

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