"Gabriel Teodros" might not be the hardest or most memorable emcee name of all time. It is, however, a real name, and for an emcee who speaks as freely and easily with his raps as any man on the street could hope to in conversation, it fits him well.
As a member of the popular MassLine Media record label in Seattle (home to Blue Scholars), Teodros dropped his debut solo album, Lovework, in 2007. If an artist is best judged through his work, then through this prism Teodros can be seen as one of the Northwest's best and most-listenable emcees. The opening track to the record, "Sacred Texts," sets the tone as Teodros name checks a number of his key hiphop influences, most notably (and first) A Tribe Called Quest. At times the urge for so-called conscious emcees to "take it back" to the early-to-mid-'90s golden age of rap seems forced, almost desperate, but in the case of Teodros it is natural, if not effortless. Lovework most effectively displays Teodros' own love for the music and culture of hiphop, and specifically that bygone era populated by his heroes.
Teodros' wordplay and delivery is solid throughout Lovework, and the guest emcees he invites to participate—notably Jerm, who steals the second track with his funky cadence—add to the flavor. In fact, my only real criticism of the sonic landscape present on Lovework is that it is too homogenous within its chosen style. The bulk of the beats tend to blend into one another seamlessly, without any particularly striking against the others.
Northwest hiphop is often labeled as containing primarily conscious rappers, but regardless of that irksome label, Gabriel Teodros manages to stand out and produce strong music that makes up for what it lacks in originality with quality and genuine honesty. So what if it sounds like he wants to jump in a time machine and go back to '92? When you step into the club for his show tonight, it might feel like you did just that.