Artist: Brother Ali Track: "Palm the Joker" Album: The Truth Is Here Listen

What sets apart Slug and other Rhymesayers artists from a thousand backpacking impostors also elevates Brother Ali's latest release: a desperate, slice-of-life narrative style and an emphatic delivery. Throughout this gem, Ali sounds as if he must spit or succumb, get right or die trying.

Much of The Truth Is Here, out this week, tackles the rapper's fame, touring, fatherhood, faith and doubt -- self-examination of the highest order. He could smoke most in a battle, but he doesn't spend entire songs dissing an imaginary emcee. Thank heavens.

Beats and ancillary creative inspiration from Ant, who propels Slug in Atmosphere, make for crisp, fresh music around which Ali expertly sticks and move, sticks and moves. As a whole, it's the best hip-hop album released this year.