Talib Kweli is one frustrating cat. He’s a fantastic emcee, but his material is almost maddeningly inconsistent (although I’ve gotta blame most of that on the production). I hear he’s capable of tearing shit up live (and performances I’ve seen on TV and in “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party” seem to bear that out), but when I actually saw him perform at Madison Square Garden a couple years ago (opening for the Beastie Boys), I was disappointed. He spits some of the most intelligent lyrics out there, but he’s not above going on some eye-rolling rants on Twitter (which got so annoying that I unfollowed him).

Following this year’s decidedly mediocre reunion with Hi-Tek, Kweli is back on the solo tip with “Gutter Rainbows”, which is scheduled for release at the end of January 2011. First single is called “Cold Rain”, and if this is any indication of how the rest of the album sounds, then “Rainbows” will be a worthy successor to 2007’s “Ear Drum”.

You folks out there who call Lil Wayne the best rapper alive? Listen to Kweli’s first verse and then tell me if Weezy is capable of a) flowing anywhere near as well as Kweli flows or b) spitting lyrics even 1/10 as profound as on this song. Listen to that first verse AGAIN. Dude is conducting a clinic on how to rap.

I’m sure the lack of mainstream recognition frustrates the shit out of Kweli, but with skills like this, he’ll be around (and respected) long after today’s top-selling rapper has used up his fifteen minutes.

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