The Deal: Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek team up for the first time in a decade for new Reflection Eternal album.
The Good: Can't even begin to describe just how good Hi-Tek was on this album. Producing every track, he managed to be soulful, dope, at times anthemic, experimental and precise. Just good hip-hop from behind the boards, he was definitely in a good grove.
Kweli was in rare, but expected, form as well. I was truly impressed that he was able to take some of the things that made his last solo album, Eardrum, his most commercially successful. Lots of standout tracks on the album. "Strangers (Paranoid)" which captures the flame from their previous cuts together over a crazy beat. "In This World" cleverly chops up Jay-Z's line on "Moment of Clarity" where he admits, lyrically, he'd be more like Kweli. "Midnight Hour" with Estelle conjured images of Amy Winehouse meeting the Star Wars Cantina Band, seriously, I don't know why. While "Ballad of the Black Gold" was eerily current and relevant with the oil spill in the Gulf Coast and also featured one of the hardest beats on the project.
"Just Begun" with Jay Electronica, North Carolina's J Cole and Mos Def was easily the track you skip to when you get the album and it did not disappoint. (When's the last time you heard a Notorious BUM reference on a track?)
Even Affion Crockett's Russell Simmons impressions were funny.
The Bad: Purely from a fan perspective, anytime you get Mos Def and Talib Kweli track, it's just a cruel reminder that Black Star never did another album.
The Verdict: A wonderfully dope sigh of relief. After 10 years between projects, you had to wonder if Reflection Eternal could get that old thing back and they far exceeded expectations on this project. Maybe just maybe, this is beginning of some fruitful musical years to come from these two.
Warner Brothers; Release date: May 17, 2010