Album Review: Reflection Eternal- “Revolutions Per Minute”
The last time Brooklyn MC Talib Kweli and Cincinnati DJ Hi-Tek partnered under the Reflection Eternal moniker, it was back in 2000 with their critically acclaimed album, Train of Thought. It captured the essence of hip hop as Kweli and Tek sketched their lives as artists and young men. Train of Thought combined Kweli’s high-caliber rhymes and poetical intuition with Tek’s deeply layered beats to create a classic.
Kweli and Tek have done fairly well outside of their affliation as Reflection Eternal, with Kweli releasing three LPs since 2002 (Quality, The Beautiful Struggle and Eardrum) and Tek with his Hi-Teknology trilogy. However, both of them have reconnected on various projects, including Tek producing “More or Less” on Eardum and Kweli making numerous appearances on the Hi-Teknology series. It was only a matter of time before Kweli and Tek collaborated again as Reflection Eternal.
Ta-Da! Without further ado, Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek present: Revolutions Per Minute. Although Reflection Eternal became the oldest sophomores in hip-hop history with their latest release, the chemistry between Kweli and Tek has not wavered and has steadily become stronger. While Train of Thought enlisted beat production that incorporated pulsating drums and blaring horns, the beginning of “City Playgrounds” reverses that approach with a much more low-key sound, allowing Kweli to be heard loud and clear. In “Back Again” (featuring RES), the pace increases dramatically and focuses on their triumphant return to music. With “Strangers (Paranoid)” (featuring Bun B), capitalism, the health care system and government spying are issues fired upon by Kweli and former UGK member, Bun B.
There are several standout tracks on the album, such as “In This World,” “Ballad of Black Gold” and “Just Begun.” With “In This World,” Tek concocts a marching beat for Kweli, who rhymes about the effect poverty has had on black people as well as shedding light on how hard work and diligence led him to a successful career in hip-hop. In “Ballad of Black Gold,” Kweli sounds off on the oil industry and the effect it has had on the Middle East and Nigeria. Then there is “Just Begun”, a track that encompasses three incredible lyricists: Jay Electronica, J Cole and Mos Def. An intermittent generational gap is forged between Talib Kweli and Mos Def with Jay Electronica and J Cole.
Even though Revolutions Per Minute integrates more hip hop and pop together to appeal to a larger demographic more so than Train of Thought, Kweli and Tek showcase their fortitude and virtuosity by delivering another record imbued with social and political overtones.
Although the hip-hop industry has evolved immensely over the last decade, Reflection Eternal has maintained the fundamentals of hip-hop with their consistency and devoutness to musical integrity. Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek have proven that even a lengthy hiatus will not deter their spirits nor infatuation with music.
In This World
Ballad of Black Gold