Spotlight Interview: Professor A.L.I.

He’s an artist, a poet, an author, mentor, father, and leader. His name is Professor A.L.I. Through many submissions we receive on, this artist is by far one of the most intellectual lyricist, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing. Not only is Professor A.L.I. a fan and student of hip hop, but he carries on the legacy of the ones before him and keeps the reminiscence of golden age hip hop alive—with a twist of politics and his heritage in the mix. Professor A.L.I. will be releasing his album, Tamilmatic that highlights what is going on in his life, music, and in the government. His wisdom is unapologetic and his truth is simply his truth. It was great to get to know the man behind the music and learn more about his artistry, upcoming plans, and other ventures.
Tell us about yourself and your music.
Professor A.L.I.: I go by Professor A.L.I. and I’m one of the founders of Hip-Hop Ed (#HipHopEd), teaching through Hip-Hop.  My music balances lyricism reminiscent of East Coast artists in the 1990’s with West Coast production, with an emphasis on storytelling.
How would you describe your sound?
Professor A.L.I.: The sound of my music is a throwback to Hip-Hop from the mid-1990’s, with a lot of international and jazz influences.  You can hear my Bay Area cadence and the Tamil sound in my samples, especially on my latest album: Tamilmatic.
Talk about the experience making your song/mixtape.
Professor A.L.I.: I make albums.  To me each album is a story and each song is a chapter.  The goal is to give the listener a robust journey, one that they enjoy and come back to.  Some will enjoy some chapters before others, but they all have something for everyone.
What are you currently working on? Any new projects? Shows?
Professor A.L.I.: Tamilmatic is my latest album and it releases on 4/14/16.  I’ll have local shows promoting the album throughout May into early June.  I also release a book entitled “A Muslim Trapped In Donald Trump’s America” on 4/18/16.  Besides this I keep writing and sharing my poetry and articles on and on DailyKos.
What has been your biggest highlight in your music career this far?
Professor A.L.I.: Before last year I would have said working with Raekwon, or E-40, amongst the many legends who have featured on my work, however, in all honesty I must say the highlight was recording my daughter’s first rap and her pride in telling people that her father is a rap artist.
Name your ideal collaboration: mainstream or independent artist(s)
Professor A.L.I.: If Afeni Shakur heard my work and gave me a snippet of 2pac’s lyrics from her archive to create a hook for a song, that would be phenomenal… the same with Bob Marley.  I’ve never worked with Immortal Technique or Lowkey and those would be powerful collaborations based on the subject matter to which we would speak.
Name something random that people do not know about you.
Professor A.L.I.: I’m a fanboy, a trekkie and a fiend for Marvel and Kung-Fu Cinema.
What’s one thing you have learned or discovered while being in the indie music scene/industry?
Professor A.L.I.: The more authentic you are, the more independent you will stay.  Look at my lyrics and my career as proof.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Professor A.L.I.: More music, more books.  Every year for the past 6 years I’ve come out with a full length album and I do not plan to stop.  Stay tuned with my website or with social media for more things to come.
 Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Professor A.L.I.: The Tamilmatic album is out and I wrote its first single “2pac in Tamil,” to look at his impact to this day. I remembered other poets and liberators and found a deep similarity in the story of 2pac and the mahakavi (greatest poet in Tamil) Bharathiyar and found it interesting that they died on the same day, 75 years a part. I wondered how the souls of liberators are intertwined, and how the rhythm of resistance poetry beats in unison in the hearts of the people. This song pays homage to an artist, whose music blared out of headphones and stereos for Tamil people facing war crimes committed by the government of Sri Lanka, traversing post-colonial realities of life in South Asia and in the Diaspora with an identity of a people who aren’t tied to a nation. Tupac Amaru Shakur is alive and he lives through me.

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