It’s been exactly five years since the Pacific Northwest’s most endearing rapper, Gabriel Teodros, last released a full length project. That album, Lovework, managed to impress even the most stoic of music critics like Robert Christgau who praised Teodros in Rolling Stone for his “brains, musicality and a refreshing attitude.” Those are the laurels that Teodros has rested upon over the years, parlaying his skills and East African heritage into a series of performances throughout Ethiopia, while rocking shows stateside with the likes of K’naan and generally captivating audiences who appreciate left-leaning hip-hop when it’s urban, honest and sincere.
With his newest project, Colored People’s Time Machine, Teodros takes his heart-heavy brand of hip-hop several steps further without confining himself to the typical “conscious rapper” stereotypes. The album zooms straight out of the gate with the lead-off track, “Blossoms of Fire,” which also happens to be the lead single. Considering the five-year gap between LPs, it feels important that Teodros shows his growth here. The chorus on “Blossoms of Fire” exclaims “I let go and let love,” which could easily be the theme of the full album. “Sangre Nueva” which features Mexico City’s Bocafloja on vocals is one of the strongest cuts, Boca’s all Spanish verse being one of the fiercest on the record.
What stands out quickly (right from the title, in fact) is that the album is meant to rep as many colored groups as possible. The guest artists alone comprise first-generation Haitian, Mexican, Filipina, Jamaican, Puerto Rican, Ethiopian, Korean, Indian and Palestinian. That doesn’t make it a catch-all project with a “jack of all trades, master of none” feel. Instead, Teodros uses artists of different backgrounds and allows them to tell their story on various tracks so that the listener can glean the commonalities without it being forced.
Other standout songs include the melodic, bedroom lullaby tune “Goodnight,” “Still With You,” featuring Los Angeles emcee SKIM and “Beit” which showcases the far-too-slept-on Palestinian wordsmith Sabreena Da Witch. If anything, the album suffers from being a song or two longer than necessary. A couple of sleepers could have been left off to give the album more punch but in general, Colored People’s Time Machine is the most well put together release to come out of the Pacific Northwest in awhile.