The Bottom Line
Revolution on wax is usually a tricky affair. But Revolutions Per Minute finds Kweli masterfully marrying the physical with the philosophical atop Hi-Tek's rich palette of headphone music.
- Hi-Tek's distinctive, laid-back beats
- Kweli's razor-sharp rhymes
- Leave those skits to Prince Paul
- Reflection Eternal's first album since 2000's Train of Thought
- Produced entirely by Hi-Tek
- Features Bun B, Estelle, Chester French, Bilal, RES, and others
Guide Review - Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek) - 'Revolutions Per Minute'
The last time Brooklyn's Talib Kweli joined forces with Cincinnati's Hi-Tek, Bill Clinton was still in office. In the nine years that passed since then, America elected two presidents, Kweli released four solo albums and Hi-Tek dropped three installments of his Hi-Teknology series. The time spent apart served them well. The duo displays a musical maturation on Revolutions Per Minute.
As the title betrays, Kweli has revolution on his mind. He's also got a dozen other things on his plate. The intro laments the decline of record sales, while "In This World" decries the shift in the paradigm of hip-hop. Kweli has cut down on the book references we've grown accustomed to, but he's still kicking knowledge. "Ballad of the Black Gold" paints a grim picture of oppression and links 1960s British colonialism to modern day ethnic wars in Nigeria. Against Tek's dreamy backdrop, he ruminates, "Loyalty to petroleum/Royalty spoiled the economy/We won’t get it poppin’ till we’re oil-free." The thoroughly researched narrative resounds with a knowledge that transcends his peers.
Kweli has a reputation for stepping up when surrounded by talent. Sure enough, RPM is heavy on guest features but with varying results. Whereas Bun B dials in a cameo on "Strangers," Bilal turns in a powerful performance on the slow-burning "Ends." The best collaborative cut on Revolutions, however, is "Just Begun" with J Cole, Jay Electronica, and Mos Def. It's an abrasive and fully formed meeting of like minds.
Still, Kweli's main collaborator here remains Hi-Tek, who produced Revolutions in its entirety. Tek's largely minimalist grooves displays a dramatic flair. His keyboard wails, soulful piano loops, and staccato blasts are prolific in their arrangement. But this modern day Pete Rock isn't immune from misfires. His snap-inspired concoction on "Got Work" is five years late.
RPM's only other notable transgression is in the skits department. There's a running joke about Russell Simmons throughout the album. One interlude features a Simmons impostor stating that his definition of revolution would be to see Rihanna eat vegetables in leather undies. While it hearkens to the days when De La Soul enhanced their albums through sheer ridicule, it distracts from the serious topic Kweli is trying to address on Revolutions. But that flaw is negligible, given Revolution's consistency. Besides, no one should ever have to apologize for ridiculing Russell Simmons.
Vanguards of the social lyricism club, Kweli and Tek stuffed Revolutions with a slew of clever rhymes and bubbling beats that will leave heads fiendin' for more. The Brooklynati duo delivered another winner.Release Date: May 18th, 2010