Turn-of-the-year releases are generally greeted with a semi-yawn. With the dust of a phenomenal music year still settling, industry trailblazer Talib Kweli has set his sites on the tricky first quarter burn. His first album free from the constraints of any label directives but his own, Talib seems to be coasting just a bit on this cut-and-paste session. As in, from a pure musical standpoint, outside of a few of repeat-worthy tracks, Gutter Rainbows, is no cure for your current cabin fever.
It is a slightly more impressive work of art from the more mechanical side of musicianship. 14 cuts, 14 different producers. Oh No, Khrysis & Marco Polo among them. Alright, Ski Beatz too. Surely been done before but this listener can’t recall any cut-above albums with this format off top (don’t call me Shirley). The songwriting is solid and the album flows together reasonably well but as with most releases today, nothing really approaches a tone that you can fully focus your sidetracked mind upon. A few refrains here, a Sean Price guest spot on “Palookas” there.
Despite an enlisted corps of trusted producers, there is something hollow about many of the compositions here; low-end grooves are replaced by tin-can highs on many of the cuts, the Oh No produced-”Uh Oh” (featuring Jean Grae) and the aforementioned Marco Polo piece “Palookas,” notwithstanding.
Talib’s polished artistry and shrewd business acumen have helped him accomplish something many artists would hope to emulate: secure footholds in the creative sector and the more buttoned-up world of boardroom dealings. He is to be commended for this blueprint and some delightful hip-hop, historically. Not that the latter isn’t sponsored here, but as is the case with most artists the cognoscenti cherish, Sir Kweli, we long for more.
The artwork is eye-catching and rendered well. Packaging has not fully trumped quality just yet but it is exceedingly important. So is the music, certainly not secondary here, if not just a bit more reminiscent of the winter doldrums that currently envelop a sworn majority of us. It’s only winter after all, and come spring this joint may just be recalled into duty.
Let’s hope this is a mere warm-up for another TaMadlib masterpiece. As in Liberation 2. Get on that mofos.