Saturday, 29 January 2011
REVIEW: TALIB KWELI: GUTTER RAINBOWS
With 'Gutter Rainbows' Kweli colours the streets.
Talib Kweli is easily one of Brooklyn's best M.C.'s, if not New York's and if not raps. From super, studded 'Black Star' days with the mighty Mos Def, to his eternal reflections with kinetic producer Hi-Tek, Talib has touched classics. In his solo work especially he's given us 'Quality', while banging on our 'Eardrum' and showing us 'The Beautiful Struggle'. The diverse talent has also stepped onto the dance floor with talents Res and Graph Nobel for the envelope pushing Idle Warship and liberated the industry with maverick producer Madlib. He also runs his own record label, 'Blacksmith' that features the group Strong Arm Steady and the best female rapper today, Jean Grae. With this impressive resume it's no wonder Kweli commands the respect of the greatest the music industry has to offer from Jay-Z all the way to Norah Jones.
Hot off the heels of 2010's Reflection Eternals 'Revolutions Per Minute' album and a Blacksmith mixtape which saw Kweli getting in touch with 'The Community' the B.K. M.C. Starts 2011 with a bang with his 'Gutter Rainbows' set. Talib goes it alone on his first independent record since 'Right About Now' and as of right now thanks to Internet trends and great socially conscious hip-hop, this digital release is a smash on many an electronic device. Time to get in sync.
The album opens with the title-track 'Gutter Rainbows'. On a grimy but glowing track Kweli shows us the beautiful struggle once again in all it's hard fought, picturesque nature. He also references the hit album and states his M.O., "this aint fashion rap/I'm bringing the passion back", Kweli spits, showing that the mission statement of this independent release is to stand alone and be proud.
Kweli gets laid back and soulfully flowful on 'So Low' , reaching for higher things while rapping "I always speak for the struggle, my people still hurting, I'm a name brand, a product but still a real person". Then on 'Palookas' he hooks up with Sean Price for an expensive sounding track that is still a great account of Talib's skills. This diverse range also comes with the Nigel Hall assisted 'Mr. International', where Kweli finds a home outside his comfort zone.
The beats, rhymes and life gets harder on The Beastie Boys sampling, 'I'm On One' and the even darker 'Tater Tot', where the hip-hop legend shows us why he stands toe to toe with the boys and icons like A Tribe Called Quest. Then on his quest to find a hit, Talib pours one out over piano on the showering single 'Cold Rain', an introspective and conscious but commercially viable number.
Kweli plays the waiting game on 'Wait For You' and 'Aint Waiting', where he shows he can rap about anything from the everyday goings on of everyone to love. On this album the rapper gives us all something we can relate to especially on the nostalgic, story-rap, life recount 'Friends & Family'.
As the album comes to a close Talib brings out more guests for a welcome couple of home-bred cuts before he shows us the door. From 'How You Love Me' to 'Self Saviour' the heart and appreciation keeps pumping through the beats and the breaks as this student of the game masters his craft. It's when Kweli teams-up with label-mate, protegee Jean Grae that things get real super-powered. From the lyrically sharp 'Uh Oh' to the bonus cut, 'Go Now', your left hoping the next Kweli collabo album is with his female counterpart. 'Socially Conscious Of The Throne' anybody?
Overall with 'Gutter Rainbows' Talib pulls us out the early year slum of no releases while adding some real colour to those January blues. Providing the rain and the shine, the top M.C. doesn't forget where he's come from and doesn't neglect his greatest gift, being able to traverse the plains between the hopeful and the hopeless, the highs and the lows and the positivity and the negativity. These are the hallmarks of not just a great rapper, but a true song-writer and as Kweli acknowledges everything, he can be appreciated by everyone. Time to get your ear out the gutter and look up to some real hip-hop. It's a wrap for January. TIM DAVID HARVEY.