Considering that finals are looming and I'd rather post this than write my African Civ paper, it's time for a brief history lesson:
It's rare to hear of a rapper taking his stage name from the pages of history. For every Makaveli, there are hundreds if not thousands of 50 Cents or Games, names that really mean nothing to themselves or anyone else. It's even rarer to hear an emcee with a historical moniker spit with skill that can appeal to a wide audience. Enter Los Angeles emcee/producer Sunni Ali Ber, the product of first-generation Nigerian immigrants and younger brother of Cobe Obeah, who has chosen to honor his roots by taking on the moniker Sunni Ber Ali, the first great king of the Songhai Empire, a dynasty that ruled much of West Africa from the time of Mali's decline in the early 14th century until the late 17th century.
Although the content of his music does not delve much (or at all) into that of his historical predecessor, the young artist's choice of name is quite significant. From a historical perspective, in choosing to name himself after the man that preceded him by centuries, Sunni Ali Ber not only honors his Nigerian roots, but also indicates of the type of legacy that he wants to leave behind him when he finally sets down the mic. Sunni Ali Ber wants glory. He wants to be a modern day hero placed in the same halls of Achilles, Arthur, and Son-Jara--someone who we will not quickly forget after he passes from this world. From the few songs I've been able to hear from this budding artist, he might just have the talent to pull it off.
The thing that really stands out about Ali Ber is his beat selection. Whether they are produced by himself or the legendary Dangermouse, Ali Ber has a knack for choosing instrumentals that prove to be rather epic. While he does not possess the most complex rhyme schemes compared to some of hip hop's other rising stars (see J. Cole, Wale), his lyrical complexity are still far from amateurish and remain superior to most artists in the game today. What really stands out about Ali Ber's lyrics aren't there the rhyme schemes, but his smooth delivery and raw ability to tell beautiful stories (in this aspect, he reminds me a great deal of Slug from Atmosphere). "Yurugu," which I threw on the last tape, is the most tragically beautiful song I've heard in quite some time. Similarly, "Goodnight" tells the bedtime tale of a young artist who, after years of tireless work, finally achieves all of his dreams. "Grammy Melody" is a more lighthearted track, displaying Sunni Ali Ber's smooth delivery and production and may well be one of the best songs of the year.
While Sunni Ali Ber still has a long way to go before he can live up to his name, he certainly has the talent to do so. Alongside his brother, he may well be on the outset of forming the next great hip hop dynasty out west.
Peace, Love, & Hip Hop,