I was grossly underwhelmed by the Rope-a-Dope and by The Undisputed Truth, but Us’ target=_blank>Us is one of the best albums I’ve copped in a good while.
Unlike his previous efforts, this is not one that is overtly political. Far shy of Uncle Sam Goddamn, this album has a lot more soul and melody than anything since Shadows on the Sun.
Take Us (the track) for example. It was featured in my last post, but it is soulful and haunting in a way that shocked me. It starts off sounding almost like spoken word, and his phrasing is poetic. There’s no hook, just solid bars and words that actually sound like he meant something.
Slippin Away is grittier and is more traditional Ali. He’s telling a story of losing control and trying to deal with a childhood that was just downright oppressive. It’s a story we’ve heard a lot of times, trying to make your way and resist the crazy peer pressure flying his way.
The Travelers is a bit surprising, coming from a white fellow. It’s a matter-of-fact approach to telling the story of slavery. It’s one part memorial and one part documentary, and comes across as both honest and not at all trite. At least in my impression. It’s totally possible that you may have another opinion.
Travis Lupick of Straight.com makes a pretty interesting observation when he says: “Us is a concept album that gives the impression its songs were inspired by the lives of a thousand real people. Hence the record’s name. It’s a portrait of America that is told with an amazing level of empathy. And it sounds damn good. Entirely produced by Atmosphere’s Ant, Us includes tracks that could almost find their way onto the radio, but overall, remains a jazz-infused product of the underground.”
I like the phrasing of that, but y’all will have to check it out to decide just how hyperbolic he’s being. Frankly, I love this album and encourage you all to go find it.