I’d never expected Brother Ali to make such a strong follow-up to ‘07’s The Undisputed Truth but goddamn, he hit all the spots with Us. The beats (again supplied by Ant) are richer and livelier, the stories more moving and the messages more vibrant.

While The Undisputed Truth was Ali on the outside looking with himself, as he battled divorce and death, Us, is him peering through the window at the rest of the world. His stories touch on slavery (“The Travelers”), homosexuality (“Tight Rope”), rape victims (“Babygirl”) and occasionally, about his own happy life (“Fresh Air”).

Ali’s extraordinary gift to conjure intense imagery (“salt water burns through your wounds, women are starving with babies in their wombs”) coupled with his emotional voice makes him one hell of an effective storyteller.

By the end of the album, backed by nothing but hand claps and a gospel choir, Ali rounds off an incredibly diverse album and shows us hip-hop’s true potential to be meaningful, substantive and powerful.

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