The wit and wisdom of Phonte Coleman has been a calling card of his art since his scathing take on the open mic scene from Little Brother’s 2003 classic, “The Yo-Yo.” A young Tigallo called out the faux righteous teachers who raised their black fists in the air, but only had funky under arms to show for it.
So when he got the call to parody a similar type for a scene in VH1’s “The Breaks,” he knew exactly who to channel.
“I told Dan [Charnas] I must get a white woman before this is over,” he jokes of his character “Imam Ali,” a Kufi wearing battle rapper. “If I gotta play the super Africa dude I want a high quality white woman. All the righteous dudes love white women. It’s like Big Brother Africa and Caitlin, n*gga. He loves Meredith.”
Imam Ali appears on the undercard to Ahm’s battle with Sig Sauer, and Phonte penned the lyrics for all three MCS.
“Ideally it was supposed to be comic relief, I guess. When everyone is battling trying to go at each other, Imam Ali is the guy trying to kick knowledge. He trying to preach and shit and it’s like dawg, we’re not here for that. We trying’ to battle and you talking’ about pyramids and shit. We’re not in Social Studies class.”
“You got Nikes on your feet, gold on your neck and a watch that most people would kill for/And you think you cool, you look like a fool, but you ain’t nothing but the white man’s billboard”
However, the parody only goes over with those familiar with the trope. To neophyte fans Imam was nothing to laugh at.
“The thing was I did it and to me it was so over the top…but when we shot it the crowd loved it! A lot of the extras were young people, of now. And I was talking to Dan and he was saying the kids today didn’t have the Kool Moe Dee’s, The X-Clan’s, PRT’s, they didn’t have that militant, pro-black era in hip-hop. So to them it was something new and cool. They missed the whole comic element of it. It was just dope to them. So that was interesting.”
Watch Phonte perform “Imam Ali’s” rap go into more discussion about the lyrics in “Verse Behavior.”