If you're a fan of Brother Ali, you'll find plenty to like on fellow Minneapolis rapper Toki Wright's 2009 album, A Different Mirror. It makes sense, since Wright has been associated with Ali for years. The relationship definitely helped Wright get a few years ahead of his time, but he quickly shakes any notion of less-than-equal on his first and only album with lines like: "I ain't no hypeman fucker, I'm a live band."
The backing tracks are pure Rhymesayers, marked by occasional orchestration, sudden saxophones and a strong piano presence. Often opening to the sound of vinyl cracking, tracks like "Truth or Dare" lead you down dark alleyways on a rainy Twin Cities night. Some songs, like "Next Best Thing," are aware of nostalgic simplicity. Occasional backing female vocals and some smooth jazz sax are also pretty agreeable.
But this isn't an instrumental album by any stretch. The most powerful instrument on A Different Mirror is Wright's voice. Balanced but edgy and prone to crescendos, his lyrics are adaptive to speed, style and tone. "Devil's Advocate" is the catchy single, but he gets provocative right where he needs to be, thankfully.
Toki Wright, Kristoff Krane and Carnage bring the Short Circuit Tour to the Top Hat Thu., March 28, at 9 PM. $10.