Talib Kweli

Beats & Rhymes: Talib Kweli’s Gutter Rainbows

Each Monday, Beats & Rhymes highlights a new and notable hip-hop, rap, DJ, or electronic record that embraces independent sensibilities.

Talib Kweli: Gutter RainbowsTalib Kweli: Gutter Rainbows (Javotti Media, 1/25/11)

Talib Kweli: “Cold Rain”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/talib_kweli__cold_rain.mp3|titles=Talib Kweli: “Cold Rain”]

There’s a certain sternness to Talib Kweli‘s rapping. It’s a constant in his music, and it makes you listen a little harder to differentiate where he’s going from song to song. He tends to give his work an intimidating surface, though at heart it’s accessible, unrestful, richly stimulating hip-hop, fiery in spirit and not prone to corny messages. Since the 1998 collaboration Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star, he’s delivered his words with a bold shove forward.

Kweli doesn’t sound humbled or chastened on the new Gutter Rainbows, nor does the bass line that smoothly slams the bolts home on the title track. He says in the liner notes that “this is my second album (after Liberation) that the music industry did not help me create.” This fact cuts both ways. There’s a different producer on nearly every track, but nearly all of them (from M-Phazes to Oh No to Ski Beatz) somehow connect back to the warm instrumentation (flute, guitar, swirly soul vocals) of 88-Keys‘ intro track, “After The Rain.” It’s a busy and collaborative 14 tracks, but thoroughly solid.