Meet Ali Good a 23-year-old MC from Detroit. He enjoys Reagan-era funk, supplementing his college education with lyrics from the golden age of hip-hop and cruising to ’93 Cube.
He has now released his new track “Good Food.” The record is off his forthcoming seven-song debut demo tape, “Noir En Amérique,” which is filled with “Illmatic” inspired lyrics and laid-back beats. It sheds a musical light on economics, race, religion and culture. Hip-hop is important, and “Good Food” provides a case for replacing Shakespeare with rap lyrics in public schools. We interview him to find out more!
From Good Food, you come across as not only dope rapper but some who takes in their environment. What inspires your rhymes?
I’m inspired by the talent and artistry of Erykah Badu, Nas and ’93 Cube. I listen to their music and I’m like, WOW, how can I top that? But, most importantly, I get my inspiration from life — my experiences and environment.
Coming from Detroit do you feel there is pressure trying not to fall into the same mould as someone else who’s come from Detroit?
I don’t feel there’s any pressure. Detroit is dope, and so are the people. We share the same experiences. I feel like it’s a blessing to come from Detroit. If people want to put me in the same mould as other Detroiters, I’m not mad at that.
Noir En Amerique, is your forthcoming debut demo-tape, where’s the title from/mean and what should we as listeners expect from your debut?
Noir En Amerique is Black in America in French. I thought Black in America was too generic, so I decided to get creative. Everyone who listens to the project should expect dope rhymes and beats. But, Noir En Amérique is more than that. It’s an attack on White supremacy. It’s an attack on Black-on-Black crime. It’s self-conviction. It’s my intention to put listeners in my state of mind during the time period that I wrote and recorded the tape.
You use the term Illmatic to describe your lyrics and beats, which is A) a big statement because Illmatic is seen pinnacle of rap albums and B) is the 90’s rap era your biggest musical influence?
Right. Illmatic was one of the greatest rap albums of all time, if not the greatest. The 90’s rap era is definitely my biggest musical influence. It was the golden age of hip-hop. Talent wise, 90’s hip-hop is the only generation of music comparable to Reagan-era funk.
Good food, there’s so much going on in American food from documentaries, programs from the white house and continuous health problems. Let’s start with your artwork for “Good Food”, what are your thoughts on how black Americans eat in comparison to white Americans?
From food for thought to actual food, Black Americans get the lowest of the low. But it goes back to chattel slavery when slaves were given the food White people didn’t want to eat. Nas said it best, “Slave food turned to soul food, collards and neck bones.” I’ve known more people to die from high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, etc. than anything else. I wonder why?
As far as food for thought, the diet is bad for Black Americans. We’re feed lies from birth. We don’t even wear our original surnames. Maybe it’s just me, but I never met an African with the last name Mitchell. It’s sad. I mean, a lot of American schools are still teaching that Columbus discovered America. Dude has his own holiday. That’s crazy.
You’re a black educated male in America, we see a scope of it in the UK, how difficult is it to approach life with so much police brutality happening in the US?
First, I’d like to say that there’s a difference from being educated and having a college degree. I’m not knocking higher education, I’m in college now, but what good is a degree without knowledge of self? We have a Black president, but in the eyes of White America, he’s just a nigga in the White House. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said: “No one man can rise above the condition of his people.” Obama is a perfect example of that. Here he is, a Harvard graduate, and President of the United States — but he still can’t escape being called a nigger.
On that note, it’s difficult to approach life in the US because we aren’t free. Police brutality is a huge factor in that. Without true freedom, we will never be able to approach and live life because we’re always in the struggle.
There’s always been a debate that there should be rap analysis the same way poetry is studied in schools. If you could pick 5 albums to do an essay on which 5 would they be and why?
In no particular order:
1) Jay-Z — Reasonable Doubt
This album deserves an essay off the strength of Hov’s line in Dead Presidents II. “Without rap, I was crazy straight, Partna I’m still spending money from ‘88.” It’s like, YO! That’s an economics course in itself.
2) Nas — Nigger
It’s funny because Nas had to change his album to “Untitled.” I guess for distribution reasons or whatever. But I learned more from that album than in my entire career as a student. So, yeah.
3) Ice Cube — Lethal Injection
I pick “Lethal Injection” because Cube went hard. It’s mad knowledge in that album. It’s hard to explain why. You just have to listen to it.
4) Kanye West – The College Dropout
“All Fall Down” is my reason for choosing this. “The College Dropout” is an album everyone can relate to — White, Black, it doesn’t matter. “Drug dealer buy Jordans. Crackhead buy crack. And a white man get paid off of all of that.” That’s real.
5) Dead Prez – “Let’s Get Free”
This album is automatic. If you need a critical thinking course, listen to “Let’s Get Free.” But yeah, the whole album is dope. Everyone should listen. Actually, “Be Healthy” is one of my inspirations for writing “Good Food.”
And also are you a vegan, and if not or you are why? Russell Simmons, a UK rapper called Akala and scientist have come and said that being vegan has great positives on our own health?
I’m not vegan. But I’m sure they’re right. I have no reason to doubt them. I mean, going vegan would be dope — I’m just not disciplined enough.
You’re coming into an era where a lot of artist are going down this “trap soul” route. Where they do a bit or rapping and a bit of singing/melody, did you try to avoid this or is this something you’re looking to explore?
I think the “trap soul” movement is dope. I’m a huge fan of Partynextdoor. It’s just not for me as an artist. I didn’t try to avoid making that that type of music, nor am I looking to explore it. Plus, my singing sucks. I wouldn’t be comfortable exploring “trap soul.”
What was the last song you listened to (which wasn’t your own tape) and why?
The last song I listened to was “Tall Grass” by Supakaine, an artist out of Detroit. I don’t know why I listened to it, but the hook is catchy and the lyrics are on point. There’s a message to it. It’s just a dope record. I can relate to it.
There’s been a lot of talk about rap beef, the most notable back and forth has come from Drake and Meek Mill. If you were in their shoes what would you do? Start off with Meek Mill.
Both Meek and Drake are great artists. But in terms of rap battles, Meek is one of the greatest. If I were Meek, I’d ignore it. Meek has nothing to prove. Like, Drake is one of the best rappers out right now, but I don’t think he’s on Meek’s level when it comes to rap battles. If I were Drake, I’d keep the records coming. But, I’d also be preparing myself just in case Meek decides to drop his 2016 version of “Ether.”
A lot of artist set out to get signed and there’s a lot like Chance the Rapper, Mac Miller and UK artist such as Skepta and JME who have major success without being signed. Do you think now in 2016, there’s a bigger chance to be global name without a label?
Definitely. The Internet changed the game. Social media and the rise of hip-hop blogs evened the playing field for independent artists. With good music, a team and a good marketing strategy, there’s most certainly a bigger chance to become a global name without a label. I look at the success of Dom Kennedy and it makes me want to work even harder.
Who right now is making music you like?
Right now, a lot of people are making music that I like. Off the top of my head though, Eryn Kane, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, M.I.A., Jay Rock, Chuck Inglish, Erykah Badu, Isaiah Rashad, Jorja Smith, Jamila Woods, Dom Kennedy, etc. The list goes on.
Who are your top 5 mcs dead or alive and why?
Nas – Nas because he’s my favorite rapper. To me, he’s the GOAT. I got my style and wordplay from Nas.
Andre 3000 – Andre because he’s never dropped a solo album and he’s talked about as if he dropped 20 albums. 3 Stacks is just dope.
Jay Electronica – Jay Electronica is just an amazing rapper, period.
Ice Cube – Aside from Nas, Cube is one of the rappers who influenced me the most. Imagine hip-hop without Cube.
Tupac – The fact that folks talk about Pac as if he’s still physically alive is a testament to the power of the god’s message. Pac’s flesh is deceased, but his mind isn’t. Pac is top 5 dead or alive because his music has outlived his physical body.
As you’re from Detroit I would love to get your opinion: Fresh Prince or Martin?
Haha! Martin all day.
If you could collaborate with 5 different artist from any genre, who would they be and why?
Erykah Badu – I haven’t fully developed as an artist yet. I haven’t mastered my craft. I feel like collaborating with Badu would get me to that point.
D’Angelo – YO! D’Angelo’s voice and artistry mixed with my raps is bound to be some of the best music of all time.
Earl Sweatshirt – Earl got bars. Who wouldn’t want to collaborate with him?
Chuck Inglish – Chuck Inglish has some of the best beats in the game right now. I feel like his production would take my music to the next level.
M.I.A. – M.I.A. because she’s one of my favorite artists outside the rap genre. I think we’d make great music. If I could, I’d make music like M.I.A.
As an artist what’s one thing you want your music to do for the consumers?
I make music to contribute to the resurrection of the mentally dead. I want my music to get people thinking. I want it to make people happy. I want it to motivate people to do for self.