The Shrine of Dig represents music that has made indelible impressions on our lives, both musically and personally. We plan to enshrine works and artists that stand out for any number of special reasons, from those glorious moments we first heard something captivating and new, through the continuous impacts of the music upon our lives. The induction ceremony involves multiple posts where we will both explore and pay tribute to the words and sounds which have been so important to us. In doing so, we share with you some music we believe is damn near infallible and absolutely worth listening to. View all
Earlier today, I posted the first of two Valentine's Day song dedication posts. That one was for couples. But now it's my fellow single people's turn. Our time has come!
Valentine's Day can sometimes be rough when you aren't in a relationship. If you happen to be feeling a little down, I have just the song for you. It's one of my all-time favorite rap songs and one so good, I'm inducting it into The Shrine of Dig. If you didn't guess from the picture, it's Brother Ali's amazing and empowering "Forest Whitaker."
If you would please turn in your Bible to beauty tips from Forest Whitaker, you'll be feeling awesome in no time.
Brother Ali – Forest Whitaker
First there's the production. This is one super catchy track. It's got that perfect mid-tempo beat, complemented by a descending bass line and beautiful organ flourishes. It never fails to get my head nodding. I have a purely elemental and instinctual connection to the groove here, it just completely sucks me in every single time – and I have given this one a lot of listens.
Brother Ali comes in with a sort of invocation that captures his trademark honest poetry: "Whatever comes up, comes out. We don't put our hands over our mouths." He lets the beat ride, he's enjoying it as much as we are – you can hear him ask for it "one more time" before he comes in and just kills the sole verse of the song. It's incredible, it goes on my Mount Rushmore of favorite hip-hop verses. The first part is Brother Ali painting an exquisitely self-deprecating portrait of himself. It's effective because he happens to be an overweight, bald albino, or as he puts it, "Not the classic profile of what the ladies want."
But the best part is that even when he's saying all this, there is no shame in his delivery. He's self-assured from being locked in to the music and from how he set the tone for truth-telling right away. The delivery of the first half of the verse picks up steam to the second half, which is one of the best descriptions ever about being happy with who you are:
You might think I'm depressed as can be, but when I look in the mirror I see sexy-ass me.
And if that's something you can't respect, then that's peace. My life's better without you, actually.
To everyone out there, who's a little different, I say damn a magazine, these is God's fingerprints.
You can call me ugly but can't take nothing from me. I am what I am, doctor, you ain't gotta love me.
This passage crescendos and builds momentum like he's sermonizing in the pulpit, so it makes perfect sense that he gives way to an interlude of a preacher and a fervent mass. This was all subtly hinted at musically with the use of the church organ too. Forest Whitaker is appropriate as the patron saint of odd-looking dudes who nevertheless have a commanding presence and very successful careers.
Finally, there's the hook-y outro, a perfect mantra for feeling good about yourself:
I'ma be alright, you ain't gotta be my friend tonight. I'ma be okay, you would probably bore me anyway.
Brother Ali knows "you ain't gotta love me," because he loves himself for who is. And the unsaid message is that someone who also loves him for who he is will come along because that confidence and high esteem are magnetic.
This is an incredible song. It is a pleasure to listen to and it's got a great message for single people on Valentine's Day and really, for everyone all the time: If you love yourself and own who you are, no one can ever get you down.