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Revolutions Per Minute
“If this album had been trimmed down from seventeen tracks to its core moments, it would have been a classic.”
Go into Revolutions Per Minute expecting a sequel to Reflection Eternal’s first outing Train Of Thought, and you’ll exit bewildered and confused about what happened to your favourite underground rap heroes. Wipe the slate clean (or try to) before popping the disc in, and you’ll discover a brilliant album that you’ll find yourself coming back to again and again.
Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek have changed in the past ten years. Tek flirted with Dre and Aftermath, and dropped a couple more of his never-quite-good-enough Hi-Teknology series. Kweli hit the ground running with the excellent Quality before losing momentum with some iffy work and a vastly overrated project with Madlib. In a way, Revolutions Per Minute is an attempt to recapture what made them so good in the first place. Does it work? Um.
As an album, RPM is beautifully put together. Whatever you think about Tek and Kweli, they’ve matured, both individually and in their work together. Beats are fuller, more earthy. Raps are carefully constructed, built around developing topics. And there are some great moments here where it’s clear that both artists brought their A-game. Tek’s highlight is the atmospheric, wonderfully simple ‘City Playgrounds’, which is built around a gorgeous keyboard loop, while Kweli shines on the excellent ‘Ballad Of The Black Gold’. If this album had been trimmed down from seventeen tracks to its core moments, it would have been a classic.
Thing is, it’s hard not to feel just a little disappointed. Some moments here are just plain dull—‘Lifting Off’ and ‘In The Red’ for example—while others confound and confuse. ‘Midnight Hour’ might have Estelle’s capable vocals on it, but it sounds like it came off a Spank Rock album—and not the good bits of it, either. What was that all about?
Ultimately, this is not the Reflection Eternal you once knew. It’s a bold direction for the duo to take—and for the most part, it works brilliantly. But they still have some work to do to iron out the inconsistencies and return to their status as the most storied rap group of their era.
Words Rob Boffard