Album review by: WISDOM
It has been ten years since we’ve been blessed with a full Reflection Eternal project, a lifetime in the fickle and forgetful world of hip hop. Fortunately for faithful fans and newcomers alike, Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek show the synergy we would come to expect from this dynamic duo. Of course, being a great supporter of Talib Kweli musical projects, I may have a biased opinion when listening to Revolutions Per Minute, a seventeen track collection of dope songs. This review is a long time coming, because the album has been out for public consumption since 2nd Quarter of 2010.
The album starts with “RPMs“, a breakdown of Revolutions Per Minute in the literal sense as well as the figurative musical aspect. The voiceover on this introduction is reminiscent of vocals on older, dusty recordings from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. It serves as a fitting way to reintroduce Reflection Eternal to an audience that has been subjected to dumbed-down lyrics and gimmicks as a way to sell records. “City Playgrounds” is a cool song that allows Talib Kweli the opportunity to showcase his very articulate wordplay, with the stripped-down keyboard from Hi-Tek. “Back Again” is a very hot cut, with the feminine vocal serving as the chrous. One of the standout cuts on Revolutions Per Minute is “Strangers (Paranoid)”, featuring the severely underrated Bun B. This song shows the lyrical chemistry between two dynamic emcees, representing both Brooklyn and Port Arthur proudly. The next song, “In This World”, gives the Brooklyn emcee the opportunity to kick braggadocio lyrics while the Jay-Z vocal sample “if skills sold, truth be told, I probably be lyrically Talib Kweli” places this lyrical juggernaut on the same lyrical level as Jigga himself. This cosign by the fellow Brooklynite is fitting, because Talib has always been a microphone phenom, even if record sales haven’t matched his lyrical prowess.
“Got Work” is the cut on the album where storytelling skills are showcased, accompanied by yet another stripped-down production from Hi-Tek. It is quite evident from listening to the album that Hi-Tek crafted tracks to compliment the words spoken from the mouth of Talib Kweli, and it works very well. Hi-Tek has spent the past few years under the tutelage of Dr. Dre and the Aftermath camp, and I believe this has served Hi-Tek well. His tracks are not overpowering or layered with sample after sample. He has become very adept at utilizing live instrumentation with dusty sampling. The following song, “Midnight Hour”, is reminiscent of 60’s Motown/doo wop music, with Philly songstress and Idle Warship partner Res taking part in the vocal harmonies. “Lifting Off” is an atmospheric cut that allows Talib Kweli to lyrically expound on mind elevation. This track has a Dilla influence that Hi-Tek has channeled to great effect. Next on the sonic menu is “In The Red”, which starts with vinyl static and scratching, bringing a somewhat old school feel to the song. As a slower-tempo track, the listener is able to decipher the lyrical complexity displayed by Talib Kweli, considered by many (including myself) as a top-tier emcee.
“Black Gold Intro” is a fitting segue to “The Ballad Of The Black Gold”. This song is fitting in 2010, as it discusses how oil, or “black gold” affects us from a financial and natural standpoint. This is the type of song that should, but doesn’t, get any type of push or radio play, and that is a shame. Talib Kweli is still the type of lyricist that will push the envelope and open dialogue for those willing to listen and learn. “Just Begun” is a song that is vintage Reflection Eternal, harking back to days gone by for this dynamic duo. With a looped jazz composition serving as the backdrop, this song allows Kweli to showcase his lyrical dexterity, along with dynamic emcee Jay Electronica, new school spitter J. Cole and partner in rhyme Mos Def. This is, in my humble opinion, the highlight on Revolutions Per Minute. This fits my purist, hip hop perspective perfectly. “Long Hot Summer” has a nice drum track constructed by Hi-Tek, allowing for the Reflection Eternal lyricist to discuss in detail his feelings for a beautiful lady.
At 5:33, “Get Loose” (along with “The Ballad Of The Black Gold”) is the longest cut on Revolutions Per Minute. The tempo of this song ends itself to a dance-oriented crowd, sounding like something more akin to Gnarls Barkley. This song is a departure from the typical Hi-Tek sound, but fits into the overall album scheme. “So Good” slows the tempo with a bouncy, Dirty South aesthetic, built for Chevy cruising on a Saturday night down Peachtree Street in Atlanta. “Ends” is a head-nodder that gives Talib Kweli the space to discuss monetary ways and means. This is a nice, mid-tempo cut produced by Hi-Tek, with smooth background vocals balancing the track. The final cut on the album, “My Life (Outro)” is a parting prize for those fortunate enough to have this album. Hypnotic drums compliment the reflective lyrics, and this song closes Revolutions Per Minute on a high note indeed. Talib Kweli manages to lyrically drop gems throughout this final song.
Overall, I was pleased with this album when I purchased it months ago, and upon revisiting it, I have discovered that this is a slept-on gem for 2010. It has been ten years since these creative beings have been on the same page with an album, but the synergy displayed by Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek is undeniable. If you haven’t purchased the album, please do so. Support this creative force and purchase Revolutions Per Minute, don’t download from a friend or online. Artists such as Reflection Eternal deserve continued support, and I am grateful that they continue to make dynamic music.