Gutter Rainbows


Gen 27 2011, 7:19

Unsure what to review next, I nearly chose Vanilla Ice's new album until I saw its name, WTF, and briefly raged that someone had stolen my thoughts (and expressed them so eloquently). But when Talib Kweli does that, I tend to sing along. So I picked up his Gutter Rainbows instead to see if that still held true:

I don’t sing along immediately but I appreciate what he’s doing and nod along. After the Rain, a short, bearable intro, segues into Gutter Rainbows—nice title play—which sets the tone for the album. Album and song live up to their name: upbeat, street-chic, and inspirational, a promise of better things (to come).

Two tracks later, Palookas (feat. Sean Price) slows the pace from inspiration to menacing braggadocio. The chorus explains, “You ain’t got a verse better than my worst one,” and I can’t really argue. His lesser tracks are lesser but never not solid. Moreover, even when he’s bragging, he still inspires—“They gave somebody else the crown,/ but I’m still the king without it.”—and that’s what keeps me coming back to his music. He knows he’s meant for more, that he still doesn’t quite get his due, but continues regardless, perhaps harder.

Mr. International (feat. Nigel Hall) softens the vibe and speeds things back up. It feels like LudacrisPimpin' All Over The World, without the pimping—a smooth, upbeat song with a soulful hook about how hard Talib works. It’s fun stereo fodder. I could see this one making waves on the radio.

But Cold Rain was the track that turned me onto this album and probably an even better fit for radio promotion. It’s not quite Get By, his most popular song to date, but it has similar relevance and appeal “for the day-trippers and the hipsters,” among others. “Do they ask your religion before they rent you an apartment?/ Is the answer to burn the Koran so that we can offend Islamics?/ The end is upon us with a hash tag above the topic.”

He’s calling us all to work together, adding later, on final track Self Savior (feat. Chace Infinite), that “Every poor person is a n***a now.” Kweli’s no religious figure (“My intelligent design is a product of evolution”) but clearly champions religious freedom.

Tater Tot reveals another of his talents: storytelling. A soldier returns home, hoping to find himself, from overseas warfare and battle wounds. And his story is backed by my favorite beat on the album, easily my favorite song overall.

Meanwhile, Friends & Family shouts out his heroes and friends. After all, with “So much wack rap, I know it’s hard to tell/ the difference but when I heat it up, I make the garbage smell.” I won’t pass up his help. Kanye West, feature this man on your next project. Your beat helped “Get By” succeed, but Talib still needs to blow up. The world needs to hear more of him.

Favorite Tracks: Tater Tot, Cold Rain, Palookas, How You Love Me
Rating: 4.2/5 Stars


  • ggnomeproject

    @ Aevitasm: I agree. The only guest I had any sort of misgivings with was Sean Price. Just seems like Kweli really overshadowed him lyrically. At the same time, Talib could've done much, much worse picking guest vocalists on that song. @ AC-0: Thanks. Fair enough. I take it you're a bigger fan of Kweli's older material?

    Gen 28 2011, 7:38
  • pex

    5,5/10 in my opinion!

    Gen 28 2011, 11:07
  • ggnomeproject

    @ pex: Why so?

    Gen 30 2011, 6:30
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