Muhammad Ali Was the GOAT of Hip Hop Too

“Float like a butterfly
Sting like a bee
Your hands can’t hit
What your eyes can’t see.”

(Said to George Foreman before their fight in 1974.)

The man wasn’t just the greatest boxer that ever lived; he was also a rap pioneer. “Without Muhammad Ali, there would be no ‘Mama Said Knock You Out, and the term G.O.A.T. would have never been coined,” LL Cool J once said.

Muhammad Ali / Muhammad Ali and Cleveland Williams / Muhammad Ali / Bob Dylan and Muhammad Ali
Source: Getty Images

Ali was a master at delivering witty brags and trash talk. He provided the world with endless quotables back in the 1960s when he was busy knocking out each and every one of his competitors. Along the way, he managed to become a foundational force in the early development of rap and hip-hop music.

The Night He Shook Up the World

“If you like to lose your money,
be a fool and bet on Sonny.”

(Before fighting Sonny Liston)

Cassius Clay became Muhammad “The Champ” Ali on February 25, 1964, when he knocked out the seemingly undefeatable Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship. It was a surprise KO, and bookies that put odds as high as 10 to 1 on it were biting their nails.

Cassius Clay stands over the downed Sonny Liston and taunts.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

Ali became an overnight celebrity and established a concrete place in American sports history. Moments after his victory, he declared: “I shook up the world.” Well, it turns out that he shook up the music world, too.

Clay Comes Out to Meet Liston

“Liston keeps backing, but there’s not enough room,
It’s a matter of time ‘till Clay lowers the boom.”

(From Clay Comes Out to Meet Liston)

As Ali was preparing to battle Liston, he offered the press a poem he titled Song of Myself, where he predicted that he would defeat an opponent he called “the Bear.”

Ali speaks to the press.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

And he did just that, becoming the next best thing in sports. “History records that Liston was humiliated twice by Ali,” wrote David Toop in a study of early hip-hop culture called Rap Attack.

I Am the Greatest!

“This is the legend of Cassius Clay,
The most beautiful fighter in the world today.”

(From Round 1: I Am the Greatest)

A year before his championship win, in 1963, Ali (still known as Cassius Clay) released an album. It’s called I Am the Greatest! and he released it when he was still just a contender. After the 1964 triumph, Columbia Records issued two of the album’s tracks as singles.

A young Muhammad Ali listens to record in his car.
Source: Reddit

The titular track reached #113 on March 21, 1964, whereas his cover of Stand by Me hit #102 a week later. Obviously, the numbers were nothing to brag about; they were merely a footnote on the charts. But Ali’s influence in the music industry proved to be just as epic as his knockouts.

A New Man in America

“What’s my name, fool? What’s my name?”

(During a 1967 fight with Ernie Terrell.)

Up until that point, the world in which Clay moved was mostly athletic. But with his new championship, he polarized America and made headlines. First came the public announcement of his membership in the Nation of Islam which led him to change his name to Muhammad Ali.

Muhammad Ali walks through the streets with members of the Black Panther Party.
Photo by David Fenton/Getty Images

Then came his 1967 refusal to be inducted into the US Armed Forces based on his religious principles. His bold choice cost him his title as well as three and a half years of boxing, all during his prime.

A Punch to the Music Industry

“He talks a great deal, and brags indeed-y,
Of a muscular punch that’s incredibly speed-y.”

(From Round 1: I Am the Greatest)

Ali made his presence in many places – the athletic, cultural, political and spiritual worlds – so it’s no surprise that music is one of the many places where he left his legacy.

Muhammad Ali records a rhythm and blues album in a studio.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

His influence in music was both direct and indirect, and every bit as animated as the man himself. Of course, the most direct way he contributed to music was with his 1963 album, which was largely a compilation of his arrogant poetry set to music.

Not Some Comic Sideshow

“Singing Hail, Hail, the Gangs All Here.
Leave your worries at the door boy, they’re not going anywhere”

Two of the tracks are actual musical numbers: the Stand by Me cover and a pop rendition of Dropkick Murphy’s The Gang’s All Here with guest artist Sam Cooke. Ali seemingly took this musical project seriously, while Columbia Records framed it as something of a comic sideshow.

Muhammad Ali and Sam Cooke are jamming together.
Source: Facebook

Shortly after his victory over Liston, Ali made an appearance on the BBC show Grandstand with Cooke. Ali encouraged his singing partner into a spontaneous a cappella performance of their song The Gang’s All Here.

The Killer, Chiller, Thriller

“It will be a killer, and a chiller, and a thriller,
when I get the gorilla in Manila.”

(Before the 1975 Thrilla in Manilla fight)

Regardless of how networks or music companies framed him, Ali thought of himself as a deserving musical talent. And he came to be a popular muse for other artists.

Muhammad Ali is greeted by a traditional Scottish pipe band on his arrival at Glasgow Airport.
Photo by Daily Express/Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images

An early example is The Alcove’s The Ballad of Cassius Clay, a 1964 doo-wop song that the group recorded as a single for Heaven Records. Countless other tributes came after, mostly by other Black artists.

He Had No Quarrel With “Them Vietcong”

Ali wrote and failed a military exam twice in 1964. His army IQ score of 78 was way below the level the Army required to be drafted. “I said I was the greatest not the smartest,” the champ snapped. But two years later, the Army relaxed their standards, making him eligible for the draft.

Cassius Clay points to newspaper headline to show he's not the only one protesting the Vietnam War.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

Reporters questioned him for hours, asking where he stood on the Vietnam War. He eventually erupted, stating, “Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong!” White America, already hating on him for being a Black Muslim, was now able to accuse him of being a draft dodger, too.

Inspiring Artists in the Vietnam Era

“I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and got into bed before the room was dark.”

(Before fighting George Foreman, 1974)

Being a muse for music artists only grew after his exile during the Vietnam era. He was reinstated in professional boxing after 1971 and regained the championship with yet another surprise knockout of George Foreman in the epic “Rumble in the Jungle” fight in 1974.

Muhammad Ali smashes a right to the head of George Foreman.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

Afterwards, the boxer inspired a number of songs during his boxing career’s second act. The British pop star Johnny Wakelin made two funky singles about the boxer in the mid-‘70s: 1974’s Black Superman (Muhammad Ali) and 1976’s In Zaire.

He Was Hip-Hop Before Hip-Hop Existed

“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me—Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.”

Muhammad Ali was hip-hop before the genre even came to exist. He was the man the young generation of future hip-hoppers watched, shaping their idea of what it meant to be a man.

Ali poses for the press.
Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images

Like Ali, hip-hop culture (not just music alone) became bold and brash. The heavyweight champion, who beat his opponents with style and danced in the ring, was smooth, cool, and powerful.

Boxing’s Greatest Showman

“My face is so pretty, you don’t see a scar, which proves I’m the king of the ring by far.”

All of his brags of beauty were his way of saying to be Black is beautiful, all while maintaining his masculinity. And it became the hip-hop generation’s ideal. He was also a manipulator of the media.

Ali raises his hands in victory in the ring.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

Ali was what rap culture became – the whole “look-at-me” persona. He was boxing’s greatest showman, and he didn’t just talk the talk. He walked the walk. He knew exactly how to get attention about his fights, how to talk to reporters and make them hang onto his every word and forgetting how egotistical he sounded.

A Master Trickster

Ali was a trickster, too. He loved to manipulate the press. Remember the famous photo of him boxing underwater? Ali told the photographer that it was part of his training. That was a lie, but regardless, it became one of the most iconic photographs of all time.

Muhammad Ali is boxing underwater.
Source: Etsy

The 1961 photographs were done by Flip Schulke, who only later discovered the lie and eventually revealed that the photos were not as they seemed. The series of underwater shots of the boxer were taken in a Miami swimming pool when Ali was only 19.

A Boxer in a Swimming Pool?

He was still Clay then, training in the pool when Schulke showed up. The photographer wanted to discuss the shoot for Sports Illustrated with him. Ali explained to him that his previous trainer encouraged him to practice in the pool, where the water’s resistance acts just like weight.

Ali is training in the pool.
Source: Facebook

Then Schulke suggested these underwater shots to the magazine, and Sports Illustrated rejected the idea. “When I called the editor at Sports Illustrated, he thought I was crazy for taking pictures of a boxer in a swimming pool,” Schulke said in 2003.

The Perfect Shot

On the day of the shoot, Schulke was taking several photos of the boxer. “I turned around, and there he was, standing on the bottom of the pool… I mean, that’s very hard to do, and he’s in a perfect boxing pose.”

A close-up of Ali underwater.
Source: Imgur

Schulke swam over quickly and took about six pictures of him. Ali, meanwhile, was holding his breath and not making any movement. It took three years before the photographer met the boxer again at another photoshoot and learned the truth: he had been fooled by Ali and his trainer.

He Fooled Everybody

“We were looking through a scrapbook,” Schulke recalled, “and when he came across my underwater pictures, he winked at me.” He later understood that he and his trainer came up with the whole story on their own.

Ali poses with Flip Schulke by the pool.
Source: Imgur

As it turns out, Ali didn’t even know how to swim. “He fooled everybody – and it made fantastic pictures.” Since Sports Illustrated didn’t want a shoot in their magazine of a boxer in a pool, Schulke sold the shoot to Life magazine instead. At least they knew it was worth it…

He Was BLM Way Before the Movement Began

Ali’s most important fight wasn’t in the ring; it was against the government when it tried to draft him into the army to fight in the Vietnam War. He recognized the white power structure that was oppressing the minority and looking to send them to kill other people of color in another country.

Muhammad Ali gives his reasons for rejecting the draft during the Vietnam War at a press event.
Photo by Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images

His refusal to be drafted wasn’t to dodge fighting. He clearly loved to fight. It was a statement – one man standing up to his country and demanding it do better. If it cost him his time in the ring, so be it.

Chuck D’s Personal Influence

Hip-hop icon Chuck D said that it was Ali’s fearlessness that became a basis for the confident and competitive lyrics that hip-hop eventually became. For Chuck, “Muhammad Ali appears frequently along the timeline of my life,” he said.

Chuck D poses for a portrait in his hometown.
Photo by Karjean Levine/Getty Images

Watching the Greatest of All Time on TV, “not only boxing, but being able to win, grab the mic, snatch it back (thank God) and sound like he’s in a rhythmic flow, with a good tone of voice, doing some rappin’…. As kids, we couldn’t help but be amazed.”

Ali Bomaye! (Ali Kill Him!)

“Ali Bomaye! Ali Bomaye!
I’m ’bout to rumble in the jungle in these new Kanyes
Ali Bomaye! Ali Bomaye!
My lawyer threw them gloves on the beat another case”

Muhammad Ali throws a punch at George Foreman / The Game inn a still from Ali Bomaye video.
Photo by Focus on Sport, Getty Images / Source: YouTube

Let’s look at some of the best Muhammad Ali references in hip-hop, starting with the song Ali Bomaye by The Game featuring 2 Chainz and Rick Ross. The song came out in 2012 and was named after the chant heard during the famous 1974 Rumble In the Jungle fight in Zaire. What does that even mean? Well, it translates to “Ali kill him!”

Reigning Supreme at the Rumble in the Jungle

Even his diehard fans didn’t expect Ali to win against George Foreman. In his dressing room, Ali asked his guests, “What’s wrong around here? Everybody scared? Scared? A little thing like this? This is like another day in the gym.”

George Foreman and Muhammad Ali exchange punches in the ring.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

Ali sat back on the ropes (the so called “rope-a-dope”), inviting Foreman to work off his energy before picking him off. Foreman was exhausted by the sixth round. With 20 seconds remaining, Ali put Foreman on the floor for good. Commentator David Frost declared: “The great man has done it! This is the most joyous scene ever seen in the history of boxing!”

Rapper’s Delight

“You see I’m six foot one
and I’m tons of fun and I dress to a tee,
you see I got more clothes than Muhammad Ali
and I dress so viciously”

A group shot of the Sugar Hill Gang / A portrait of Muhammad Ali.
Photo by Anthony Barboza, Getty Images / Stanley Weston, Getty Images

Sugarhill Gang – a group said to be one of the first in hip hop – released this song in 1980 and they set off a wave that continues to this day. The reference to The Champ is heard early on when Hank says he has more gear than Ali, and this came at a time when Ali was at the tail-end of his career.

Ready or Not

“I refugee from Guantanamo Bay,
dance around the border like I’m Cassius Clay”

The Fugees’ hit 1996 song was apparently not one Lauryn Hill was pleased with once it became a massive success. The album’s first single featured her singing, but she was allegedly furious at how well-received Ready or Not was on the radio.

Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill and Praz of the Fugees / Muhammad Ali
Photo by Paul Natkin, WireImage, Getty Images / Stanley Weston, Getty Images

Funnily enough, a song directed at rappers had one of the best female MCs who is remembered for singing the chorus rather than her contribution with a strong verse on the record.

Doin’ the Ali Shuffle

“Gotta work hard to not break the hearts that love you
The rest is all show like the Ali Shuffle”

Hip hop wasn’t the only genre Ali found his way into through inspiration. Take the 1967 song by soul musician Alvin Cash called Doin’ the Ali Shuffle. Cash liked to make dance songs, and one of them was this track about the boxer.

A photo of Ali and Alvin Cash.
Source: Imgur

The thing is, Cash’s timing couldn’t have been worse. It was right around the time when Ali’s career derailed thanks to his Vietnam draft refusal. Cash tried his luck again with a disco version of the song 10 years later, but it made little to no impression.

Black Superman

“This here’s the story of Cassius Clay
Who changed his name to Muhammad Ali
He knows how to talk and he knows how to fight
And all the contenders were beat out of sight”

Johnny Wakelin / Muhammad Ali
Photo by Michael Putland, Getty Images / Focus on Sport, Getty Images

British singer-songwriter Johnny Wakelin & the Kinshasa Band were inspired by The Rumble in the Jungle fight and made a reggae song that became a big hit in the United States and an even bigger success in the UK. Ali reportedly hated the song, but that didn’t stop Wakelin from going into Round 2 in 1976, with the Ali-themed sequel In Zaire.

I Shall Be Free

“I was shadow-boxing earlier in the day,
I figured I was ready for Cassius Clay.”

Bob Dylan was a huge fan of Ali’s, as well as of boxing itself. Dylan has been known to box to stay in shape for tours. This song appeared on his 1964 album, Another Side of Bob Dylan.

Dylan and Ali talk to each other backstage.
Source: Reddit

“If the measure of greatness is to gladden the heart of every human being on the face of the earth, then he truly was the greatest,” Dylan wrote of Ali. “In every way he was the bravest, the kindest and the most excellent of men.”

Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum

“I said ‘Fee, fie, fo, fum, Cassius Clay, here I come
26, 27, 28, 29, I’m gonna make your face look just like mine”

Dylan recorded I Shall Be Free after Ali defeated Liston in 1964 and became heavyweight champion for the first time.

Muhammad Ali stands onstage at Madison Square Garden.
Photo by Icon and Image/Getty Images

Seven years later, Dylan watched the “Fight of the Century,” in 1971 when Ali went up against Joe Frazier – the battle that marked Ali’s first professional loss. In 1975, following the release of Dylan’s single Hurricane, Ali appeared on stage at the singer-songwriter’s Rolling Thunder Revue at Madison Square Garden alongside Rubin Carter’s wife and daughter.

He Took Up Boxing After His Bike Was Stolen

Let’s look at some of Ali’s greatest moments, and the ones that simply made him The Greatest. We’ll start in the year 1954, when 12-year-old Cassius Clay was riding his red and white bike to the Louisville Home Show (an exhibition for Black businesses).

A young Ali poses in his boxing shorts.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

He was going for the free popcorn, hot dogs and candy, though. Anyways, when he tried to leave, his bike was gone. He went to see a policeman, Joe Martin, at the nearby gym. He later wrote in his autobiography, The Greatest, “I ran downstairs crying but the sights and sounds and smell of boxing excited me so much that I almost forgot about the bike.” The rest is, you know, history.

He Won His First Bout That Same Year

Let it be known that he was no natural. The first time he ever stepped into the ring to fight an older fighter, he flailed about and lasted less than minute, getting pulled out with a bloody nose. Joe Martin recalled, he “didn’t know a left hook from a kick in the ass.”

Muhammad Ali takes a hit from Joe Frazier.
Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Bettmann/Corbis/Getty Images

Six weeks later, the boy won his first bout against another novice, Ronny O’Keefe, which aired on Martin’s TV show Tomorrow’s Champions. Cassius Clay Senior proclaimed: “My son is going to be another Joe Louis. The World Heavyweight Champion, Cassius Clay!”

Getting the Gold in Rome and Claiming He Tossed It in a River

Ali almost didn’t make it to the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Italy because he was petrified of flying. Believe it or not, the Greatest was scared of air travel. In fact, he bought a parachute from an army store to wear on the plane. After the first three easy bouts, he found the former bronze medalist Zbigniew Pietrzykowski harder to beat in the final.

Ali receives gold at the 1960 Olympics.
Photo by Central Press/Getty Images

But, of course, he won the Gold in the end. He claimed in his autobiography that he threw his gold medal into the Ohio River, saying: “I had fought a man almost to death because he had wanted to take it from me … now I had thrown it in the river. And I felt no pain and regret. Only relief, and a new strength.” The truth? He lost the medal.

Ali Meets Gorgeous George and Gets Inspired

In 1961, after going professional, he won six fights in six months. Then, he met wrestler “Gorgeous” George Wagner, who knew how to get people to come watch him. Ali later told his biographer, Thomas Hauser, that George was shouting, “If this bum beats me, I’ll crawl across the ring and cut off my hair, but it’s not gonna happen because I’m the greatest fighter in the world.”

Muhammad Ali and George Wagner.
Source: YouTube

But Ali said to himself, “Man. I want to see this fight.” He noticed how the whole place was sold out when George wrestled. “That’s when I decided if I talked more, there was no telling how much people would pay to see me.”

Ali Taunted Sonny Liston in Las Vegas

Ali was fast and furious in the ring and learned to be quick-tongued. Right before the second Sonny Liston vs. Floyd Patterson fight in 1963, Ali followed Liston to Vegas to watch him lose at craps. He shouted at Liston: “Look at that big ugly bear, he can’t do anything right.”

Cassius Clay at the home of Sonny Liston taunting and yelling at him.
Photo by Bettmann Archive/Getty Images.

Promoter Harold Conrad recalled how Liston then threw the dice down, walked over to Ali, and said, “Listen here you n***** f*****. If you don’t get out of here in 10 seconds, I’m gonna pull that big tongue out of your mouth and stick it up your ass.” Ali left, only to show up later in front of Liston’s house in Denver to yell at him from his driveway.

And Showed Him Who’s the Greatest

It didn’t take long for their fight to get arranged. And Liston was a boxing demon; in 36 fights he lost only once. At the weigh-in, Ali’s pulse was double his normal rate, leading people to think he was terrified. But Ali told his doctor, Ferdie Pacheco, that he had a plan: “Liston is scared of no man, but he is scared of a nut because he doesn’t know what I am going to do.”

Liston and Ali face off in the ring.
Photo by Tony Triolo/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

Liston sure found out that Ali was simply slicker and sharper than him. Liston quit at the end of the sixth round. Then came the infamous quote: “I shook up the world … I am the greatest! … I am the prettiest thing that ever lived!” He was just 22.

Ali Gets Nasty With His Words and Fists

In 1965, Ali and Liston fought in a rematch, and Ali knocked him out in the first round. Word on the street was that Liston, a mob fighter, took a dive. Floyd Patterson had told Sports Illustrated, “The image of a Black Muslim as the world heavyweight champion disgraces the sport and nation.”

Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali each land a blow on the other.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

Ali’s response was: “Patterson was nothing but an Uncle Tom Negro.” He then beat the guy in the ring. In 1967, Ali fought Ernie Terrell – who still called him Cassius Clay. Ali’s responsewas to demand “What’s my name?” when he hit him in the ring.

Introducing the Ali Shuffle

In 1966, when he came back to America, Ali gave one of the greatest visual performances of his career. He beat Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams in three rounds. (Williams had already lost a kidney and underwent four operations after being shot in 1964.)

Muhammad Ali in fight with challenger Cleveland Williams
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

Ruthless, Ali knocked him over four times in a series of hypnotic foot moves – later dubbed “the Ali shuffle”– which he boasted was the hottest dance since The Twist. Boxing Illustrated wrote: “Many members of the press corps have found ways and means to find fault with… Anything to keep from giving his due… few doubters remain.”

From the Ring to the Slammer, Where He Served Food to Inmates

Ali spent time behind bars in 1967, after losing his title, his right to box, and then a night in Miami when he drove without a valid license. He was forced to spend 10 days, where he served food to death row inmates.

Newspaper headline talks about Ali’s sentence.
Source: Newspapers.com

“The odor of urine and feces is so strong I want to hold my nose,” he wrote. “The first man recognizes me: ‘Well, I’ll be goddamned! They got the world heavyweight champion coming for dinner. The world must be ready to come to an end!’” It was only in June 1970 that the Supreme Court ruled Ali could fight again.

Failing the Fight of the Century

When Ali finally came out of exile, America’s mood seemed to have shifted. Boxing historian Jim Jacobs said that the exile “showed people that Ali was sincere. It made him an underdog. He became a symbol to people who had never been interested in boxing.”

A Joe Frazier left hook distorts the face of Muhammad Ali in the final round of their title bout.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

But his boxing skills got rusty. At Madison Square Garden, Ali fought the new champion Joe Frazier and both gave it their all. But Ali wasn’t as sharp as he used to be, falling down in the 15th round. He got up, but inevitably lost a unanimous decision.

The Closest to Dying He’d Ever Been

Before their initial fight, Ali called Joe Frazier “The wrong kind of Negro. He’s not like me, ‘cause he’s the Uncle Tom. He works for the enemy.” By their third fight, he made his hate for Frazier even more known, calling his opponent “a dumb, ugly gorilla.”

Joe Frazier goes to the corner after he sent Muhammad Ali to the canvas.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

That third fight, which took place at 10 a.m. in boiling heat, was brutal (or classic, depending on who’s watching). The men slugged it out until they reached a standstill. Frazier took a beating in the 13th round. In the 14th, Frazier’s trainer stopped the fight. Ali later said that that was the closest to dying he had ever been.

The Three-Time Heavyweight Champion Retires

In 1978, Ali was 36, but he was more seasoned than any other before him. Still, he had his share of losses, one being when he lost his title to Leon Spinks, a seven-fight novice. A few months later, though, Ali was a little less quick and won the rematch.

Muhammad Ali speaks to fans and the press from inside the boxing ring.
Photo by Chuck Fishman/Getty Images

With that, he become the first man ever to hold the heavyweight championship belt for a third time. After the fight, Ali declared he was going to retire. “I suffered and sacrificed more than I ever did. There’s nothing left for me to gain by fighting.”

But He Couldn’t Stay Out of the Ring

Despite the retirement accouchement, Ali signed up to fight Larry Holmes, an ex-sparring partner and new champion. He reportedly took a large number of diuretics to enter the ring again in 1980. He admitted that the drugs had drained him.

Ali shows off his muscles at home.
Photo by Paul Harris/Getty Images

“In the last two days I couldn’t jog a mile. I was dead tired after one round and there were 14 more to come.” At the end of the tenth round, his trainer wanted to stop the fight, but Ali’s chief hanger-on, Drew ‘Bundini’ Brown, didn’t let that happen. Ali continued on but didn’t win a single round on the judges’ cards.

May the Greatest Rest in Peace

Ali was 74 when he died on June 3, 2016 in a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. At the time, it was described as “a precaution.” But within 24 hours, reports popped up saying he was on life support and his family “feared the worst.”

Ali speaks at a press event promoting his new book “The Greatest”
Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Ali had become more and more frail since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease back in 1984, at the age of 42. He made fewer public appearances as a result. In the last month of his life, his brother Rahman Ali revealed that Ali’s condition rendered him barely able to speak or leave his house. May he rest in peace.