Saturday, July 3, 2010

Revolutions Per Minute

by Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek)

The first Reflection Eternal album, Train of Thought, is what brought me back into hip-hop.  I had abandoned it for electronic music, which was staring to bore me.  When I picked that album up, it brought with it a new understanding of the genre, and I became a dedicated fan.  Over the years, I've followed both Kweli and Hi-Tek's careers, maintaining a strong interest in the work of the former, and gradually losing interest in the latter, as he became ever more commercial and tied to artists I couldn't stand.

When I heard the two were getting back together for a new project, my expectations were kind of low.  Lightning rarely strikes twice, and I felt that the two artists had grown apart musically.  I was glad to be proven wrong.  This album is worthy of repeated listens, and hile some parts are a little too commercial or mainstream radio-friendly for me, there are sections of the album that recapture some of the feeling of optimism and joy I got off the original.

From a typically unnecessary opening (why do we still need to do non-musical intros in 2010?), Kweli moves into some very lyrically strong numbers, with minimalist beats.  This vibe doesn't last though, as with the fourth track, things get very bouncy (with loud horns), and Bun B joins him for a song that feels a little too dated to me.  In places, Kweli and Hi-Tek stray from their usual sound, such as on 'Midnight Hour', which would have fit quite nicely on the Aceyalone & The Lonely Ones project.

The high point of the album is the eleventh track, 'Ballad of the Black Gold', wherein Kweli rails against the oil companies, both at home and abroad.  It's nice to see him invoking the name of Ken Saro-Wiwa, as he educates people the way hip-hop should.  I find it ironic that this was released before the recent BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and now the song needs another verse.  From there, we move into 'Just Begun', which features Jay Electronica, Mos Def, and J. Cole.  This is easily the second best track on the album, as these artists work so well together.

On 'In The Red', Kwe talks about the financial difficulties of former pop stars, and the capriciousness of the industry.  'Lifting Off' has him talking about his experiences with drugs, which I actually found to be more honest and perhaps inappropriate than I'm used to from this artist.

The rest of the album is decent enough, but given too easily into looking for club or radio play.  I have no problem with artists seeking that type of exposure, it just doesn't do much for me.  In all though, this is a very decent album.

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