Artist: Gabriel TeodrosTitle: LoveworkRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Jason NewmanPerhaps the most telling line from Seattle emcee Gabriel Teodros’ Lovework (Massline) comes from “In This Together,” when he rhymes “There’s so many raps labeled as conscious out there/A label people get no matter what they share.” After a few listens all the way through, it’s hard to not sympathize with this pre-emptive strike. Rhyming on issues both political and personal, Teodros may shun the “C” word, but he is a classic thinking-man’s emcee, able to discuss social problems in a real way while foregoing conspiracy-type lyrics that plague some of his peers.

For Teodros, a Seattle native with Ethiopian roots, honesty reigns over anything else. Whether discussing the history of Ethiopia on “East Africa” or his own experiences on album highlight “Sacred Texts,” Teodros is a refreshing emcee whose self-deprecation and introspection get so deep, you almost feel like you’re intruding a man’s taped confessional. On “Texts,” he rhymes, “My headphones then were my only company/ I was awkward socially/Never fit into a peer group/Imagine growing up with only music there to heal you.” The skill of turning the personal into the universal – the benchmark of any good piece of writing – is evident throughout much of Lovework.

As one can probably expect from the lyrics, Teodros isn’t exactly fighting with M.O.P. over beats. The production draws as much from neo-soul as Hip-Hop, with tracks employing soulful hooks and smooth wah-wah guitars to lay down a funky, if not slightly repetitive, base. For much of the album, however, the smooth, polished sound echoes Teodros’ voice, which employs emotional while avoiding an outright angry tone. If you agree with Teodros’ thought that, as he says on “Lovework,” “Hip-Hop is macho, bravado, ego/battles, guns, drugs, thugs and not really much mo’/My people/ What’s Going on?/tell me where we went wrong/Is it just to get paid?,” then this one’ll be for you.