Album Review: Reflection Eternal – Revolutions Per Minute

Reflection Eternal – Revolutions Per Minute
Blacksmith: 2010
Purchase on Amazon

Ten years after the release of the critically acclaimed and soundtrack to Madden 2002 Train of Thought, Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek are back together again as Reflection Eternal for Revolutions Per Minute, a title that partially serves as a nod to Talib’s ability to get political on a track. Hi-Tek again handles all the production and has created a smooth, aesthetically pleasing sound that doesn’t get too fancy or complicated while Talib uses these backdrops to display the flawless chemistry that he’s created with Hi-Tek.  Although it’s been an entire decade since the rap world first saw Reflection Eternal, Talib and Hi-Tek don’t show any rust between them.

Revolutions Per Minute marks the end of a three-year period during which neither Talib nor Hi-Tek released much new material.  Since then, there’s been a lot of things going down in the world for Talib to address, specifically on “Ballad of the Black Gold” and “Strangers (Paranoid)” where he assesses the current political climate and the shady dealings and global conflict related to the oil industry.  And while Talib excels at being political, he doesn’t overdo it to the point that the message overshadows the overall laid-back vibe that Hi-Tek’s production creates. Instead, he keeps it to a few songs while using the rest of the album’s tracks to showcase his lyricism, like in the posse cut “Just Begun” with Black Star teammate Mos Def and two of the more talented young cats in the game, the similarly revolutionary-minded Jay Electronica and Jay-Z’s talented protégé J. Cole.  Talib also has a little fun with the ladies on the Estelle-assisted “Midnight Hour” and  hooks up the stoners on “Lifting Off” and “Long Hot Summer”.

Hi-Tek keeps to a mostly minimalist sound throughout the album, which is something that he does best, with proof lying in classics like “The Blast” and “Ol’ English”.  With smoother, simpler-sounding beats, Hi-Tek creates a comfortable atmosphere for the listener.  While songs like “Midnight Hour” are high-energy, they are rare.  Instead, songs like “Just Begun”, “So Good” and “City Playgrounds” are examples of the album’s overall feel and high points: hot lines (favorites include “When I’m left to my devices, time gets suspended more than DMX’s driver’s license”) delivered over easy grooves, similar to the winning formula from Train of Thought.  There are no hard-hitting, in-your-face ghetto anthems made for the radio and the streets on this album.  Rather, you’re more likely to find a new song to smoke and chill to.  The album’s coherence is helped by the fact that only a few songs deviate from the album’s relaxed feeling, including “Paranoid” and “Midnight Hour”, both of which already stand out on their own merits.  “Got Work (Fame)”, while well-written like the rest of the album, suffers from the beat and the lyrics both being a little too dark to fit in.

Talib and Hi-Tek are still making good music despite a decade apart by following the blueprint of success they created on Train of Thought. Revolutions Per Minute succeeds in capturing the spirit of their first album without making their album a direct and blatant sequel, unlike the growing trend in hip-hop to name your album “Classic Album From Your Discography + Roman numeral” and having your lead single called “Classic Song From Your Discography + Roman numeral.”  As nice as “The Blast 2” sounds, letting the original stand on its own merits is a lot better than asking yourself, “The original was better than ‘The Blast 2’, why did they try to remake it?”  Keeping the production in-house and not outsourcing it to the hot names ended up being one of the best things Hi-Tek could have done, as he kept this album together and the songs flowing.  The album’s relaxed atmosphere presents a haven from the loud trap rappers on the radio, and is one of the strongest independent hip-hop releases of the year so far.

★★★★☆

4 out of 5
[audio:http://potholesinmyblog.flywheelsites.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Reflection-Eternal-Just-Begun-featuring_jay_electronica_j_cole_and_mos_def.mp3|titles=”Just Begun” feat. Jay Electronica, J Cole & Mos Def] [audio:http://potholesinmyblog.flywheelsites.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Reflection-Eternal-Back-Again-featuring-Res.mp3|titles=”Back Again” feat. Res]

16 thoughts on “Album Review: Reflection Eternal – Revolutions Per Minute

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  1. Fred Castano|

    Call the Estelle joint my guilty pleasure lol

    I think some of the negative reaction is due to people expecting one thing and getting another. Noted was the lack of soul from Hi-Tek. What you might call incomplete or stripped down, I’ll call minimalist. Hi-Tek has been messing with this minimalist sound for a while, I thought he pulled it off excellently on Ol’ English and similarly here on this album. Different Hi-Tek doesn’t mean bad Hi-Tek, this is just a sound from him we may have to get used to. Shame they didn’t bring back Monch for a guest verse though 🙁

    FREE THE BLACK EYED PEAS. I remember seeing the Joints and Jams video and being like “Damn this is my shit! Too bad they probably won’t blow up though.” Funny how things turn out, I read some article a while ago describing how they are “the most corporate music group in the world.” And fuck what ya heard, will.i.am can still make BEATS

  2. honestly, after a decade between albums from this duo i knew i had little chance but to be dissapointed. the album also suffered from the best cuts (Back Again, In This World, Just Begun) emerging long before the album. it’s a fine album, clearly not their best effort however. it sounds like kwe is coasting on a lot of the records.

  3. @mandy jackson

    yeah man whats up with dissing black eyed peas.

    i have much respect for BEP there underground records were good back in the day.

    people forget they are hip hop.

    what about tracks like Joints and Jam, Weekends and request + line and there just the singles which were all hot tracks back in the day.

    go listen to there debut album behind the front and listen to there first track fallin up. now thats ill man. full or curses and everything. haha

    actually there a little bit of a de la soul meets wyclef jean and the refugee allstars.

    sorry just a little shout out to John Forte. album coming out this year……

    grab Stylefree the EP.

    real ill music.

    peace

    afan

    @gedi dabakaeri

    yeah whats up with that estelle track.

    another deleted track from my ipod.

    but i stil dig alot of the other tracks though…

  4. @Mandy Jackson I gotta agree with David. BEP material pre-fergie was very dope. As for this Reflection Eternal [LP], I’m not crazy about it right now. The production lacks the soul of the Hi-Tek’s previous production. Its much more minimalist which will probably take some getting used since that’s clearly the sound Hi-tek is going for now. Tracks like; “Lifting Off”, “Just Begun”, “Back Again” are all incredible but much of the album isn’t holding my interest. The content is there, but the production is my chief complaint. My impression may change later on but that’s where I’m at with it.

    ps, there is no defending that Estelle joint.

  5. David Reyneke|

    @Mandy Jackson BEP dropped a few underground hip-hop albums before taking on Fergie and becoming shit. Behind the Front and Bridging the Gap are very dope albums…

  6. Brandon Rae|

    Give me “Back Again”, “Strangers (Paranoid)”, and “Just Begun”. You can keep the rest. Honestly, I’m beyond disappointed with this album after five listens.

  7. Mandy Jackson|

    When I said Kweli sounds like Will.I.Am, I meant that in terms of his tone of voice and cadence… nothing to do with content. He “sounds like” Will.I.Am. And since you mentioned it, how’s Will.I.Am a sell-out when true-heads never bought into him? “Falling Up” was the only BEP song that ever crossed-under. He’s always made pop music.

  8. yeah i agree. i like the beats on this album.

    its very mature as well. very simple but smooth beats.

    nothing to complex to the album but its just right and is what the current climate in hip hop needs.

    if you take out the terrible “Ballad of the Black Gold” and the intro to that track. (2 tracks i deleted when putting on my ipod)

    this album really starts to sound like a sick album.

    dont know if the estelle track fits the album. but overall i give it 4/5.

    peace

    afan.

  9. frank_be|

    And the kweli sounding like wil.I.am comment is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Someone please show me a song written as regal, compelling and intelligent as Black Gold by ol’ sell out man tan wil.I.am

  10. frank_be|

    Those minimalist beats are the shit. Kudos to the reviewer, this album knocks and Talib is spittin his ass off. Its about 3 tracks too long, but lofl at the hate. This ain’t 2000. Its slick with a contemporary sound that speaks to the things that are relevent to my life as a 28 year old leftist blaxican male in america. Its easily the best rap album I’ve heard in the past 5 months. I applaud revolutions per minute

  11. Craig Jenkins|

    This album definitely grew on me. But only after I came to terms with the fact that it’s NOTHING like the old stuff. Hi-tek’s style has changed drastically over the years. He’s not rocking that lush neo-soul stuff much anymore, which is fine by me. I’ve got plenty of rapper-over-soupy-soul-music records in my collection. I’m glad he moved on.

    Kweli has toned that OD spitfire flow down a little bit. It was getting kinda annoying the way he shoehorned syllables into bars. Here he’s changing up his flow in places, slowing it down, melding into the beats, etc. If you ask me, the new album’s not quite as good as Train of Thought, but it might be more stylistically varied. Right now I’m loving it.

  12. The production on this album is not for me.

    Just begun is an incredible song, best song I’ve heard all year. City playgrounds, Got work, are solid songs.

    But overall, to me, most of these beats are stripped down and lacking soul… almost as if they’re incomplete. Hope someone remixes the shit out of this album.

  13. Mandy Jackson|

    There’s really no need to sit on this for a while. If you’ve been a Reflection fan since day one and have followed Kweli & Tek’s work until now, it’s a no-brainer. This record isn’t a good one for them. For someone else maybe… but not these two. The more I listened to this album, the more Kweli sounded like Will.I.Am. The beats were almost throw-aways if you ask me. Am I wrong for expecting at the least, what made me a fan of theirs? No way. I had hopes for this album but the part of me that knew better was right. I’m still a fan, but they missed me with this.

  14. David Reyneke|

    I’m sorry Fred.. I have to disagree with you. I thought this album was garbagio. But you did a fine job justifying why you liked it.

  15. Totally agree, JP. I think I’m gonna let this album sit for a while before I return to it with a more open mind. I wasn’t feeling it at all after my first few listens

  16. JustPlans|

    Biggest dissappointment of the year

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