By Ana Gonzalez
On his latest solo endeavor, celebrated Seattle emcee Gabriel Teodros returns to his niche of multicultural hip-hop. Colored People’s Time Machine echoes Teodros’s earlier works with his signature vibe of subtly intense beats, worldly sounds, and openly autobiographical lyrics.
As a fan of Tribe and Talib Kweli, I love Teodros’s style, but he exploits it within the first four tracks. The slow groove with sampled hooks of vocals and jazz instruments can only stay fresh for so long, especially at the same tempo. However, the song “Beit” changes everything. It’s a faster, lighter song, laced with Middle Eastern melodies, Arabic lyrics and the illuminating presence of Sabreena Da Witch, Palestine’s first lady of hip-hop. After this track, everything seems a bit lighter. “Goodnight,” “Sangre Nueva,” “Sun & Breeze,” and “Colored People’s Time Machine” are enough to buy the entire album.
That being said, there is one recurring theme throughout Colored People’s Time Machine that irks me as a musician: the instability of its production. Not everything flows cohesively, either as an album or within individual songs. Rhythms are choppy and somewhat unnatural, like someone’s only experience with percussion came through a drum machine, and once-cool loops are quickly exhausted (i.e., “Blossoms of Fire”). Moreover, there are instances of blatant dissonance occurring between doubled voices on tracks like “Still With You” and throughout the entire bass line of “You A Star.”
However, one can equate these issues to the fact that Teodros spent two years creating this album, collaborating with six different producers and twelve guest artists (in a collective five different languages). Too many cooks in the kitchen and too much time listening to the same tracks over and over again can create music that is, at once, wonderfully multicultural, slightly off-kilter and inconsistent. In that period of time, your ears can become accustomed to anything, and the music you create becomes like your child. To Gabriel Teodros, this album obviously means the world to him because its lyrics describe his life and world views. With such love invested in Colored People’s Time Machine, it is easy for Tedodros to focus more on the messages within the lyrics than on his musical aspects. Next time, Mr. Teodros, just take a step back and look at your finished product as a whole before sending it out for print. It might force you to tighten up your musical screws.