The Bite Marked Heart is the latest EP from rhymesayer Brother Ali. With its release coincided with valentines day, it consists of 7 tracks dealing with both the positive and negative aspects of love. If you have listened to Ali’s other work you will know that he’s one of the best at discussing the particular topic. With his ability to give honest, heartfelt insights of his past experiences without getting all soppy like others tend to do, he could easily make a career giving relationship advice if he wasn’t a rapper.
It opens with Shine On, which features the beautiful voice of Nikki Jean. This takes the form of a narrative story over the soulful beat, as he pretends to be a waiter just to interact with the young lady for a brief moment before getting caught out; “I’m sorry, I don’t really work here… awkward”
Electric Energy tells the story of a man who sleeps with multiple women but still feels empty without real love. As the title suggests, the beat features funky electronic synths.
I’ll Be Around is the first of two tracks produced by long-term collaborator Ant and features Phonte from Little Brother along with a chorus from Stokley Williams. This has a nice chilled out vibe before the following I Can’t Wait sets up the second half of the EP in a more somber manner.
Years reflects on his failed marriage which ended in divorce after 10 years. In comparison to Walking Away from his 2007 album The Undisputed Truth, which was extremely critical of his ex-wife, this is much more forgiving as he acknowledges his own part in their troubled relationship.
I was just so hungry for affection
that the first time another gave affection I was in the trap
I let her stand in for you
trynna recapture the magic that I knew
thats why I fell for it
because when she held me in her arms I pretended they were yours
I don’t fault you for being mad at me
we were family, I put you through a tragedy
Can’t blame you for losing sanity
Backed by the piano-driven beat produced by Ant, this has a deep personal significance which really shows through and is probably my favorite song on the EP.
Haunted Housebroken is about cheating and deceit, before The Bite Marked Heart closes with the song of the same name. This is more positive than the previous three, ending on an optimistic note about his new found love and is the only one that could truly be described as “romantic”.
Overall, Brother Ali serves up a brilliant account of love and heartbreak through a mixture of storytelling and introspectiveness. Backed by the production skills of Ant and Jake One, The Bite Marked Heart is not only a welcome addition to Ali’s impressively consistent discography but one of the most concise narratives of love and breakup ever seen in hip-hop.
Best tracks: Shine On, Years, I’ll Be Around