Less than a year after the release of his collaboration with Hi-Tek on the second Reflections Eternal album, Brooklyn emcee Talib Kweli returns with his fourth solo album. It was originally planned to be a digital release, but he heard the cry of die-hard fans who wanted a physical copy, and responded with a limited edition release.

I think the most fitting place to begin discussion of this album is the song “Palookas,” which features the line “You ain’t got a verse better than my worse one.” This isn’t to imply that this is Kweli’s worst album, but rather that even when this album has slip-ups, I still prefer it to the majority of artists working today. This album features several producers, and like most albums of this format, suffers from inconsistency. The last Reflections Eternal wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely coherent, due to the steady hand of Hi-Tek’s production. Kweli is usually at his best when rhyming on a track with an R&B/soul vibe to it, and he can really get into a groove. Songs like the title track and “So Low,” fit into this mold, and they rank amongst his strongest work. “I’m on One” features an awkward introduction by Ed Lover and the production sounds like a cheesy club track. If I heard it on the radio, I’d probably change the channel and start in on a rant about the state of commercial hip hop today. That said, his lyrics remain strong, and references Kurt Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan made this nerd’s ears perk up.

Talib Kweli made his mark by delivering hip hop that is both intellectually challenging and accessible to a large audience. Gutter Rainbows once again delivers on both counts. I know it’s been a source of frustration for Kweli that because he actually produces nuanced, socially aware hip hop, he gets labeled a “Conscious Rapper,” which then prohibits him from reaching a broader audience. For those who don’t worry about labels and care about content, we’ll be happy to get yet another album from Kweli that explores a variety of subject matter in a thoughtful way. While there are a couple of misfires on the record, I’ll still take an honest effort from Talib Kweli any day of the week.