In 2016, music that conveys the frustrations of people of color (and affirms our value) is the cream rising to the top of the music world. Last year’s Baltimore uprising, caused by the controversial murder of Freddie Gray, marked the city as an epicenter of the current crusade against State-sanctioned violence. Baltimore rapper/activist Abdu-Ali is deeply affected by our plight, noting in an essay that “the fire inside makes me feel like no road cant be unconquered.”
It’s with that sense of agency and industry that Ali released MONGO, a fiery mixtape that encapsulates the pain, fury and confusion of Black existence.
Ali is the gifted artist who can eschew lyrical complexity while still resonating a powerful message. He’s making mantra music. The way he shrieks, “I got rage of a Black mother” on “Tears Of A Black Mova”, makes me believe him. MONGO is a visceral experience with igneous pangs of consciousness flying at the listener for nine tracks.
Ali collaborated with a range of producers on the project, but the tracks work cohesively to create one dynamic piece. Over a soundbed that masterfully fuses elements of Baltimore club, hip hop, and electronic (with African drums thrown in), Ali forcefully waxes on his condition as a Black queer male in a society that is working against him.
He rails against the vessels of systemic oppression, bigotry, and the school system’s miseducation throughout the project. The mixtape’s tone is generally uproarious, but Ali adds pockets of grooving harmony, such as the enthralling hook on “Anti-Chip”, in which Ali pleads that, “you don’t even realize, we’ve become mechanical, drinking from the chemicals of our end.”
If you still have a friend who still doesn’t “know what the big deal is” or some such, let them listen to MONGO. Just about any rational person will conclude that there’s no way anyone could be this impassioned for no reason.
MONGO can be streamed below. It will be available for physical purchase on May 20.