|Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek
|Reflection Eternal (Train Of Thought)
|Artists, Weldon Irvine
|Vinia Mojica, Mos Def, Res, Rah Digga, Xzibit, Kool G Rap, Les Nubians, De La Soul, Piakhan, Supa Dav West
|20 Tracks at 69mins35secs
|Eitan Prince aka Supafly
Every now and then an album comes around that raises the bar and significantly alters the face of rap music. This album attempts both and is an effort that stands out and demands attention. Or rather, it's an attempt by Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek to make an indelible mark after several notable, but frequently overlooked, contributions - see the Black Star album, Kweli's 'Manifesto' (Lyricist Lounge) etc.
Reflection Eternal aka Train of Thought aims to reclaim consciousness - that sub-genre of Hip Hop that now seems a distant memory, buried along with the popularity of Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions. While this is not the political juggernaut that PE's "Fear Of A Black Planet" was, RE successfully steers away from the preachiness that plagued so much of BDP's "Edutainment". Instead Kweli and Hi-Tek manage to mesh introspective lyricism, well-orchestrated beats and even a sense of fun into a solid package that is held together by a pervading sense of positivity, but is never short of variety.
The album opens with 'Move Something' - a danceable ditty that is infectious with its typically rugged East Coast production while Kweli comes off sounding more lyrically relaxed than he's ever been. On 'This Means You', the duo team up with the other half of Black Star, Mos Def, to bring more of that ol' feel-good vibe.
While Talib proves his versatility on the lighter joints, it's quite obvious that his forte lies in those songs where he allows his meditative and contemplative instincts to take over. The album serves up 'Love Language' (a collaboration with vocalists Les Nubians) and 'For Women' where Kweli explores and declares a love for his sisters and an enlightened understanding of relationships - a notable departure from the misogynist expressions that pervade so much of modern popular culture. Of course, this Rawkus release wouldn't be complete without reference to the 'underground' (TM) aesthetic: 'Too Late' exceeds that quota with it's moody production and an interrogative hook: "Nowadays rap artists coming half-hearted/Commercial like pop or underground like black markets/Where were you the day hip-hop died/Is it too early to mourn, is it too late to ride?"...
A series of collaborative efforts i.e. 'Down For The Count' (feat. Rah Digga and Xzibit), 'Ghetto Afterlife' (with Kool G Rap) and 'Soul Rebels' (De La Soul) adequately round out the album without quite matching the Kweli's solo presence.
I reiterate that this is not completely a classic. It's largely impressive in both production - despite its understated tones - and content, but one cannot overlook its inconsistencies, which interrupt its Train of Thought. In conclusion, Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek have produced a notable debut album that won't win a Grammy, but needs to be heard. [9/10]