|Artist: Gabriel Teodros
Label: Mass Line Media
Now this is a real album-none of that ten-track shit that has you wondering whether or not it’s a CD sampler. This is something deeper. This is why they still cipher in circles on the corner. This album proves that hip-hop does not have to be New-York centric to be authentic. And yet, who could have known that the Northwest (of all places) would have such a passionate hip-hop scene?
Hailing from rainy Seattle, Washington, by way of the Motherland (Ethiopia), Gabriel Teodros brings his international stroke of genius to the underground hip-hop scene. Taking a break from his usual position as the group Abyssinian Creole’s other half, Teodros is all set to drop his solo masterpiece, Lovework (to be released in early 2007).
If having performed alongside artists such as KRS-One, Digible Planets, and GZA gives any indication as to what should be expected from Teodros, then you will be pleasantly satisfied. Because this is not your ordinary underground conscious hip-hop artist-turns to Louis Vinton don urban story; Teodros’ perspective keeps him grounded such that his music is much more poignant than enlightenment from blood diamonds.
Lovework features themes varying between the contrasting struggle of a first-generation immigrant and a rapper to the familiar sentiment of loveless sex. The production is a little under-done; however, there are some precious gems in this bunch. “Sacred Text,” for example, presents Teodros’ relationship with his music through lyrics such as “My headphones, then, was my only company. I was awkward socially, never fit into a peer group imagine growing up with only music that would hear you. . what else would I do, yall, if I didn’t write?” Classic. “Beautiful” and “Lovework,” can be appreciated for their distinctive melodies and captivating lyrics; both tracks are simple and soothing, lounge-worthy songs.
“Sexcapism”, in my opinion, is one of the best tracks that this album has to offer; what starts off feeling like a tight cipher develops into a heart-torn love song, with a message to the fellas. This one got me: “The best love I was ever in was a friend first, its still hurts, but she’s happy when I see her so its for the best I guess, I’ve got lessons to invest, too. What you love you’ve got to let it go and grow, too. Even though you want to hold the one that holds you. Sometimes its better for someone that doesn’t know you cause you pick the one that doesn’t deserve you. I try to fill the emptiness as it gets deeper, they don’t know me they just love what’s in their speakers, why we scared of women that could be our teachers? Its just the freak in me? Or is it self-pity?” Lyrics such as this leave me speechless, making it hard to find fault in Teodros’ approach.
Midway through the album’s seventeen tracks, songs like “Racoon Rock,” “East Afrika,” and “Find A Place” are like hip-hop variations of “Heal the World” as he bemoans about his lost cultural heritage and the unity that bonds us through various global crises. Other tracks such as “No Label” and “Do U” are album fillers and could have been done without.
My only real critique of this album is that Teodros doesn’t explore a full range of emotions. His voice is often flat, his passion hidden, and his demeanor even-tempered, which is unbelievable given the topics that he tackles in his ciphers. While this speaks volumes of his humility as an artist to his craft, it overshadows the complexity of his music.
Despite all this, its really hard to shit on an album that is so personal and so genuine. Teodros has already captivated an entire myspace community, and this album is going to put him on the map. I’m just going to sit back and wait for his feature on VH1 Soul.