Ali.GOOD has crafted a story of humanity and reflecting, serving as a compelling call to action.
Ali.GOOD grew up in Detroit as the oldest of his two siblings. Born into a family of generational activists and educators, Ali explores politics, activism, and life in the inner-city through his music. His influences draw from some of the 20th century’s greatest writers and artists, including James Baldwin, Wu-Tang Clan, Tupac’s 2Pacalypse Now, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, and D’Angelo’s Black Messiah.
Nothing short of inspiration and purpose, Ali tells us that he “places an emphasis on delivering unrestrained, lyric-driven hip-hop based on his environment and experiences.” His writing and storytelling talents were shaped as an elementary school student where he wrote and illustrated a children’s book, becoming a published author. Focusing on race, culture, and societal issues for black Americans, his passion for writing deepened in high school where he wrote movie reviews and several personal essays.
In 2016, Ali joined the Black Collar Music Group management roster, and is currently at work on his debut album, entitled Good Food LP.
“Clockers” is the story of empty opportunity and systemic inequality. More importantly, it humanizes the reality of life in Detroit and the inner-city in general. It sparks discussion, as it immediately did for myself.
Making it as clear as possible from the start, I am personally just some white guy who has been on the path for college from my conception. People like me live in the suburbs, attend good public schools, and are uncomfortable in the face of poverty and oppression. They’ll subtly lock their car doors at the sight of someone unlike them, and look ahead with a tunnel vision as if they have no concern with another human’s plight.
Sociologically, this societal division makes a lot of sense as to how — but not necessarily why things are the way they are. Just read through NPR’s piece on the tragic history of Troost Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri. In one sentence: real estate and intentionally drawn school boundaries drew a racial and economic dividing line through the city, placing poor, black families on one side of the city, and rich, white families on the other.
Opportunity, in a world where blacks were not seen as human beings, was designed in favor of whites. The implications in Detroit, Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, and seemingly everywhere can be distinctly seen. Impoverished school districts with little to no access to quality education diminishes the chance to develop black students at the same level as their white counterparts, especially when state and federal resources are weighed in the favor of already well performing districts. It’s incredibly cyclical, as the vacuum of opportunity creates generational problems, and an increasing sense of desperation that lends itself towards crime being a better opportunity to feed your family than finding a traditional job is. Often, because great jobs and opportunities rarely exist in communities that are preyed upon by cyclical challenges.
Just look into the story of Will.I.Am and his ascension into musical stardom in west LA. In communities where it’s more likely to see a Title Loan place next to a Liquor Store and a Motel 8, you won’t find the opportunity you may expect there to be.
“Clockers” even as just an audio track is compelling and memorable. Ali.GOOD is heavily inspired by the weight of the reality of our society, especially in the face of what 2017 has already begun to bring us. Even without getting into the dialogue of Black Lives Matter and the police, the passing message is simply that each human being has an inherent worth which society regularly disrespects, to say the least.
It may be hard to exercise empathy in the face of what Ali.GOOD has to say and share and tell listeners/watchers. That may be the beauty of art, poetry, writing, and the modern world. We can share the reality of our own being with others who may never encounter us in life otherwise. “Clockers” is deservingly a 5/5, for its humanity, grit, historical significance and documentation of the lives of those society tries to ignore with their tunneled vision.