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First, this: As of this writing, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have had the number one album—The Heist—in the US (and a few other spots) on iTunes for the past few days, above the album from Mack's fellow 2012 XXL Freshman Machine Gun Kelly, Jay-Z's Live in Brooklyn, and the Pitch Perfect soundtrack. What we have here is a big deal—as well as a true DIY success story. As a witness to Mack's dues-paying, self-examination, and hard work over the last seven years, I am goddamn proud of him and RL.

City Arts Fest 2012 is upon us, bringing with it hiphop of sound mind and body, kicking off Wednesday, October 17, with big bad Brother Ali headlining at Neumos (with Blank Tape Beloved, Homeboy Sandman, Grynch [aka "Brother Small-i"], DJ Sosa, and the Reminders). Ali recently released Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, his fifth full-length album, produced entirely by Jake One. Ali flexes his preacherly best, examining America's "beautiful ideals and amazing flaws" ("Letter to My Countrymen," "Work Everyday"), his own life and shortcomings ("Stop the Press," "All You Need"), and the sorry makeup of a hater (the stomping "Say Amen"), sounding refreshed after a shaky last album and a three-year hiatus. A particular favorite is the Choklate-featuring "My Beloved."

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