I just took a listen through the 2010 release from Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek). It’s not great, although I would wager that fans of Kweli will probably love it. I found a review from a user (peacenik) at Amazon that was interesting. Peep it:
Maybe because it’s all been done before, or because it “died” (it didn’t, but it might be molding), or maybe because American capitalism has finally swallowed big and small acts alike, no one can deny that hip hop has changed not from “bad” to “worse” or from old-school to new-school to new-old-school, but to just plain mediocre. Maybe 808s have just outworn their welcome, maybe someone needs to invent a new piece of beat machinery. Either way, what was once a common enemy typified by Tribe’s Show Business, the almighty machine of Record Company People and their adoption of anything that sells, has left the music somewhere beyond left field (maybe the hot-dog vendor?), in a business routine well beyond any EPMD album title, in some no-man’s land of lackluster, sporadic, occasionally-inspired mediocrity. What seemed so vital, so necessary, so passionate in 1993 feels over-produced, under-produced, or auto-produced in 2010, although one could make the argument it was already beginning when Rawkus nose-dived into a spotty caricature of its former self, if it ever was anything more than a couple of folks in the right place at the right time who could only ride the coattails of luck so long before they learned to love the bomb ride down, Dr. Strangelove style. It’s not that this new one from Hi Tek and Kweli is awful, that would be easy, even preferable. It’s that it fails to move me in the slightest while managing to avoid all of the typical gaffes that at least provide for some moments of sarcastic relief. Just when the beat in Midnight Hour starts to work its magic, it gets squashed. Just when I start nodding off during Lifting Off, I start ignoring Kweli’s chorus of overdubbed punch-ins and start following Hi Tek’s bassline, weaving in and out of subtly-plucked strings and tonal undercurrents. It’s that it feels like Kweli and Hi Tek still have something to offer us, still have talent between the ears, still find small moments of solid connection, that its so frustratingly average when all is said and done. I have a love-hate relationship with Train of Thought, but Kweli has always been a gifted lyricist, and I can even get over dry-cleaning he did to his delivery, trading in that once uniquely divisive, rushed, unpredictable flow for the standard hit-every-quarter-note gravelly tone he puts out these days. Everybody’s entitled to switching up their style, it’s not that Kweli changed, or that he changed for the worse, its that he didn’t change enough, for better or worse, and I keep hoping some late release by Kweli or Mos will somehow turn in something truly inspired and well-crafted, and unfortunately, Revolutions Per Minute ain’t it. I’d take Memories Live, or even More or Less from Eardum, over just about anything on here. Ballad of the Black Gold is a decent track, but there’s always high hopes for these two, maybe the bar was just set too high so many years ago. It doesn’t knock (come on hi-tek! wtf?), it doesn’t take you off into magical lala land, bring you to tears or pour champagne down your earholes…it just..kinda…goes.
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