Well, it’s been four years since Talib Kweli’s Eardrum was unleashed upon the public and now it’s time for the world to experience Gutter Rainbows. Digitally released on January 25, Gutter Rainbows features Kweli’s familiar keen, sharp verses along with an array of featured collaborators including Sean Price, Jean Grae, and Kendra Ross just to name a couple.
From the outside looking in, it’s easy to take Gutter Rainbows for granted and listen to it as just another solid hip-hop album, but there’s more to it. Kweli’s been labeled as the “true” indie-rapper in the past and after a listen to Gutter Rainbows, it’s fairly apparent where that label is coming from. Rainbows was created completely separate from the mainstream record industry, allowing Kweli to remain fully artistically self-sufficient. I mention this because Kweli’s recently been accused of “selling out” on this LP as he has chosen to bolster public awareness of it by participating in Pepsi Max’s NFL Playoffs ad campaign as Billboard reports, a claim which I must say seems fairly unwarranted.
Honestly, there isn’t a weak track on Gutter Rainbows, it’s more a case of which tracks are better than good. The title track “Gutter Rainbows” is a good start to the LP with a flashy, uptempo beat holding steady behind Kweli’s always solid lyricism, and the following track, “So Low”, slows down just enough to juxtapose nicely with the preceding title track–it also doesn’t hurt that it’s hooky as hell. “Mr. International” featuring Nigel Hall will probably make some panties drop at some point and might be the best track Kweli does with a collaborator on the LP, although a case could be made for the final track on the record, “Self Savior” featuring Chance Infinite.
I can say with all seriousness that I’ve never heard a hip-hop record quite like Gutter Rainbows. That isn’t to say it’s totally unique unto itself because I can’t help but hear some of Kweli’s influences on the tracks which isn’t an entirely bad thing. The presence of these other influences brings a certain air of familiarity to the record that makes it a really comfortable listening (and head nodding) experience.