Brother Ali, "Us"
"If you know me, you know I love my family, love my God," proclaims Minneapolis MC Brother Ali at the top of his third album. If you didn't know that, Ali makes sure you do by the end of "Us," on which he holds forth on his Muslim faith, his kids and, in the song "House Keys," how "we really don't need all three of these bedrooms." (The rapper suggests spending the money he and his wife would save by moving into a cheaper apartment at seafood restaurant Red Lobster.) What gives Brother Ali's slice-of-life ruminations their impressive heft is the rapper's eye for everyday detail and the handmade appeal of his vintage-funk arrangements. Producer Ant provides him with deeply soulful tracks similar to those he supplies his partner Slug in the hip-hop group Atmosphere. Highlights abound, but the standout track "Best@It" has fiery guest spots from Freeway and Joell Ortiz. --Mikael Wood