Too many indie rap albums feel like they're trying too hard to sound important, forward-thinking, conscious or whatever ideal the underdog MC is straining for. Brother Ali has managed to avoid that trap by making albums that are just plain fun.

Too many indie rap albums feel like they're trying too hard to sound important, forward-thinking, conscious or whatever ideal the underdog MC is straining for. Brother Ali has managed to avoid that trap by making albums that are just plain fun.

Ali doesn't abandon those backpacker calling cards, he just imbues them with charisma and pure pop power. His latest, Us, starts with a string of solid singles built on the old-school funk and soul samples that have been rap's lifeblood for so long. When its midsection delves into darker Dr. Dre-inspired realms, Ali has built up so much rapport that I'm more than willing to follow his nimble rhymes back to daylight.

Dude might work hard to sound this good, but like any skilled rapper, he sounds like he doesn't even have to try.