It really sucks when critics sing about their personal relationships with old records. But though I’d rather be stranded on a desert island inhabited by Larry King clones than read one of those Marooned books, it’s important to acknowledge that Reflection Eternal’s 2000 masterpiece, Train of Thought, is my favorite album of all time. This debut from Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek is the most blessed producer-MC matrimony imaginable. Anyone who claims different got off at the wrong station.
Although not a flaming wreck by any means, Revolutions Per Minute derails where Train of Thought hurtled. As Kweli once said on “Memories,” they work best when he “freaks with word power” while Hi-Tek “speaks with beats.” Unfortunately, one or both of them fell asleep behind the wheel for half this ride. Ringers like the scene-setting “Back Again” and the epic “In This World” prove they’re still riding on the same wavelength, but I’ve run out of locomotive analogies to describe such lackadaisical featherweights as “Lift’in,” “In the Red,” and “City Playgrounds.”
The chemistry between these two remains bubbling, and the range of jazz-pop gems like “Midnight Hour” and didactic jewels like “Ballad of the Black Gold” demonstrates that Hi-Tek and Kweli have matured without expiring. Heck — as hard as it might be to admit, the Chester French–assisted “Get Loose” could be the dance cut of the year, and “Ends” and “Long Hot Summer” will keeps heads nodding and reflecting, perhaps eternally. All in all, not bad for the inevitably disappointing follow-up to the greatest rap disc ever made.
Editor's Note: In a previous version of this article, Train of Thought was said to have been released in 2002, it was released in 2000 on Rawkus Records. The correction has been made above.