Brother Ali chronicles his winding life and career in the dramatic “Pen to Paper,” his first new song since 2012’s Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color. The Minneapolis rapper recounts the escapism of writing lyrics as a child: “Put pen to paper the first time when I was barely eight or maybe nine/ That was the late Eighties, Reagan time,” he rhymes with a commanding flow over stark piano and horns. “The entire landscape of that blank page was mine/ Create a space to climb inside, escape the crazy times.”
From there, Ali recounts crucial milestones, like persevering through the death of his parents, meeting mentor KRS-One, discovering the teachings of Malcolm X and growing his fan base. In director Maria Juranic’s clip, the camera gradually zooms in on the rapper’s face, ending with the promise: “Announcement Tomorrow.”
Since releasing his debut LP, Rites of Passage, in 2000, Brother Ali has issued four full-length albums and four EPs.