Brother Ali performed at the Madison Pop Festival on Saturday night.
There is an elephant in the room whenever Brother Ali plays a show. The emcee, perhaps the finest from the Minneapolis Rhymesayers scene, is an albino. Though it's impossible not to notice this as he lurks around Club 770's more intimate theater Saturday night (and even if it were, his lyrics repeatedly refer to it), his albinism is the kind of fact that seems more profound than it is.
His strength isn't in that novelty, but in his stage presence. Brother Ali uses all of his size, stomping each step and lurching forward with all his weight as he rhymes. His live act is visually intense, and the sheer physicality of his movements reinforce his rhymes as he barks each song into the microphone.
By the third song, Brother Ali had twice needed a towel to wipe the sweat that drenched his perfectly-hued cue ball head. And throughout the night, he reached for the towel again and again. He gave the same energy performing the stellar material from his upcoming album as he used to hit on the fans in the front row between songs. Even for a venue of Club 770's size, it's rare to see a performer captivate so much of a crowd. If Ali's a novelty act, his intensity is a hell of a gimmick.