As he did in the year or two before his last album dropped, 2017’s “All the Beauty in This Whole Life,” Brother Ali has kept a relatively role profile this year. Unlike his time off during that quiet stretch, though, he’s apparently been hanging out in a garage near the beach in Venice, Calif., instead of a mountaintop Muslim retreat center, and he has an instantly available new album to show for it.
Over the weekend, Rhymesayers Entertainment surprised fans with “Secrets & Escapes,” a new collaborative album Ali made with L.A. rap stalwart Evidence. The record is now available for streaming via YouTube, Spotify and other digital platforms. Physical copies are also now being sold via Rhymesayers’ store.
Ali and Evidence are about to hit the road together starting Thursday in California. They will hook back up in Minneapolis when the hometown star returns to First Avenue on Dec. 19.
While he recorded for Capitol Records in the early-‘00s with his innovative group Dilated Peoples, Evidence fell in with the Rhymesayers crew in the mid-2000s and has been a mainstay at their Soundset festivals going back to their first one in 2008. He and Ali seem like strange bedfellows but have clearly hit it off through several other road ventures together.
“Evidence is one of my favorite people to tour with,” Ali said in a press release from Rhymesayers. “He brings a vibe to a live show that I’ve never felt with anyone else.” Evidence, in turn, is quoted saying, “Ali is one of the best live performers, period. As a fan of his music, I get reminded of his greatness every time I see him live.”
Three of their mutual peers/heroes, Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch and CS Armstrong, stopped by and added some guest spots to the record. This is the only album in Ali’s discography not produced by Rhymesayers co-founder and Atmosphere beatmaker Ant besides 2012’s “Mourning in America and Dreaming in Colour” (produced by Jake One).
Upon first listen, “Secrets & Escapes” is still lyrically biting and topical like all of Ali’s work, but it’s more playful, free-form and hazy in tone. Here’s how Rhymesayers’ press release describes the surprise album’s making:
“'Secrets & Escapes’ is a compendium of Brother Ali's time spent with Evidence, over the course of three trips to California, recording in a Venice garage with no regard for pleasing the internet or competing with the music industry. Evidence chopped up records on old-school samplers and ran them through a compressor (2 track) so they couldn’t be re-arranged or mixed. Brother Ali sat with the mic and spit rhymes as they came to him, without writing or organizing them into songs. Ev smoked a lot of weed, Ali prayed extensively, and their influences on each other can be heard in the recordings.”
You can stream the whole album here. Enjoy.