When the topic of underrated emcees comes up, people often mention Lloyd Banks or Pusha T. Left out of the discussion is Talib Kweli. Overshadowed by his one time (hopefully soon to be two time) partner in rhyme, Mos Def, Kweli has continuously fed hip hop heads healthy helpings of good music. However, as most Kweli fans will agree, each Kweli release has been somewhat of a step down from the last ever since Kweli and Mos Def’s classic Blackstar album. Not far removed from last year’s slept on Reflection Eternal album, Revolutions Per Minute, the BK emcee Talib Kweli is back on his own with Gutter Rainbows.
Kweli hops right in on the title track “All these rappers looking mad in photos/a sad display of braggadocio/quality makes up for what I lack in promo” possibly addressing the lack of label attention given to the Reflection Eternal album. On “I’m on One”, Kwe spits “I got the recipe for rest in peace/ I never ran, but I’m looking so presidential/I still command you to arrest the chief/rebellion is my specialty/ while the mad cows convince you to invest in beef”. Lyrically, Kweli seems to have not lost a step.
The production on “Gutter Rainbows” seems to be pretty hit or miss. S1 (of Kanye West’s “Power” fame) makes two appearances, a decent, jazzy showing on “Wait for You” and a forgettable track on “Mr. International”. Khrysis provides the heat on the aforementioned “I’m on One” which finds Kweli spitting some of his hardest bars on the album over the vintage sounding track, live crowd shouting “ho” sample included.
Relative newcomer to the world of hip hop production Maurice Brown (known more as a trumpet player) shows the smoother, laid back sound can be just as effective when dealing with powerful lyrica content on “Self Savior.” Chace Infinite makes an appearance on the track, propelling Kweli to take his rhymes to another level. Kweli obliges and comes in the second verse with “I’m lethal, I’m from a people who was forced into captivity/original man, that was often a facsimile/I give a little bit more than you metaphors and whack similes/thousand yard stare, say a prayer for my enemies/I’m international, half of these rappers laughable/it’s tragic how the other half so vaginal/they put the style over substance, this kind of bothers me, my style married my substance, now they living in harmony/but any substance can be abused, ‘specially when the style is so seductive, the substance considers leaving you/you gotta get back to your essence, use your gifts and share you presence/ don’t count your dollars till you count your blessings.”
Of the 14 tracks on the album, most find Kweli as the lone spitter. While Jean Grae brings it on her feature, Sean Price could have been left out. Overall, the album is a decent offering, just nothing amazing. It’s a good listen for now, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if in the near future the album is forgotten and left off people’s year-end best lists.
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