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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Reflection Eternal: Revolutions Per Minute

By Nick Carrabine

Smooth is the first word that comes to mind when describing Reflection Eternal’s first album in 10 years.

Reflection Eternal is made up of rapper Talib Kweli and DJ/Producer Hi-Tek. Since the duo’s first album , Kweli has made a name for himself as being a conscious rapper and released four solo albums with the highlight being his first (and arguably best) solo record in 2002 titled Quality. He is also best associated doing an album with rapper/actor Mos Def in 1998 as well as working with a young and at the time, up and coming unknown producer in Kanye West.

Hi-Tek has stayed busy producing music for such big names as 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg and The Game, among many others.

The two released Revolutions Per Minute on May 18, a day which was overshadowed by the release of Nas and Damian Marely’s Distant Relatives.

While Kweli may not be a household name (he has enjoyed moderate mainstream success), he is among one of the better emcees out there and is one of the more respected artists within the genre. So much so, that in 2003 Jay-Z paid this line of homage to the New York rapper:

“If skills sold, truth be told/I’d probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli.” -Jay-Z’s “Moment of Clairity” off The Black Album.

Don’t think Kweli didn’t notice the respect the living legend had just paid to him.

On Revolutions Per Minute’s fifth track, “In This World,” they use that exact line from Jay-Z as a sample in the song.

“(Jay-Z sample)
I get respected by the best emcees
the recipe for my success
One part, pain and suffering
Two parts, brains and hustling
Sprinkle it over Hi-Tek production
We bubbling like volcanic eruption.
...You know we did it like no one has ever did it
You got to get with it.”

What I enjoy thoroughly on this album is the chemistry Kweli and Hi-Tek have this time around which is far and away more noticeable then when they first hooked up a decade ago.

The production is so smooth and has a very laid back, slick feel to it which is perfect for Kweli’s effortless flow to ride a top of it.

The album has an old school feel to it, and I don’t mean old school like 1980s hip hop. Many of the songs feel like they could have been produced well before hip hop was even around, like the 1950s and 60s (see the below video “Midnight Hour ft. Estelle).

Of course, you can’t listen to an album that Kweli is associated with without him spitting some knowledge.

“The fiscal, conservatives, don’t know what they purpose is
Put money on the war then they cut your goods and services
Murderous corporate monsters is breakin records, Exxon
is at 40 billion a year, they rakin in record profits. Stop it
How they bankin while the auto industry is tankin?
Leadership is sankin, oil pollution in the water stankin
Loyalty, to petroleum royalty spoil the economy
We won’t get it poppin til we oil free
If you’re oil rich then we invadin
They call occupation but we losin jobs across the nation
Drill baby drill while they make our soldiers kill baby still
The desert where the blood and oil spill.”

-“Ballad of the Black Gold”

Overall, I could honestly say this may be one of my favorite releases Kweli has been a part of, which is saying a lot as he has been one of my favorite rappers for the past decade. His solo records are too mixed and his past collaboration albums are too inconsistent, or at the very least, short-lived.

Revolutions Per Minute is strong proof that no matter what garbage you hear on the radio, MTV or at the club, real hip hop will always live on with artists like Kweli.


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