One of the few records to put a lasting smile on my face is Brother Ali’s The Undisputed Truth. It opens strong with “Whatcha’ Got,” asserting its intended gospel with black church organs, before some quick scratches flip the switch into a rocked-out banger that Ali proudly gets vicious on. It is Rock Box-esque in its sound, even when ANT drops a change-up for Ali to kick the “yes yes ya’ll” routine.
If the album has one downfall, it is that it opens with that loud abrasive sound that Def Jam built its early line up around, then backs off for seven straight songs. It is not that these songs are weak offerings, but the drums get softer, reggae vibes get incorporated, and Ali tones his delivery down to soft spoken. It is a baffling digression from a sound that makes me want to RAWR like a dungeon dragon.
Granted he is adapting to ANT’s production, which he does rather well, especially on songs like “Letter from the Government” and “Pedigree,” but it is as though Ali gets us all riled up, ready to party, then requests we take our seats and listen quietly.
Perhaps this is being overly critical, but once the album gets to “Listen Up”, featuring the legendary Whipper Whip, the pace heightens exponentially and Ali regains an energetic flow, the drums thumping and ANT inserting break beats that recreate that old school vibe.
The album chills out, once again, for the final three cuts. Still, it’s fitting closure. Ali addresses his ex-wife over a somber whistle. He reassures his son on “Faheem” that this life will be a good one and the boom-bap of the drums puts the pace at a confirming head nod. By the time we reach “Ear to Ear”, Ali is nothing but smiles and affirmation that it can’t get no better. At this point, the album truly can’t.