Revolutions Per Minute
Talib Kweli is such a great MC that when you hear the man rhyme on a track that it reminds you that not all MCs are equal..and I really feel like Talib has never been better lyrically than he is on "Revolutions Per Minute"...and if you are a Hip-Hop fan, you know that that's really saying something.
Ok, so I can't say enough good thinks about Talib Kweli as an MC and a lyricist. Seriously, the man is a beast of the microphone on this joint. But that's only half the battle. Does Hi-Tek hold it down as a producer? In a word (albeit a hyphenated one - so maybe I'm cheating a bit with the whole "one" thing) hell-yes!
You know, I enjoyed the Madlib+Talib Kweli album "Liberation", but Hi-Tek feels like a better fit for Mr. Kweli. I think the last few albums that Talib has put out have struggled to find that balance between a more "commercial" sound. I don't mean commercial as in mainstream, mind you. I mean commercial as appealing to a particular segment of the population and trying to sell a ton of albums to them (because even pairing up with an underground producer like Madlib is a marketing decision - a solid one, but still). I'm not sure Talib was comfortable on the more obvious attempts for the radio nor was he 100% comfortable over a Madlib track. I feel like this time around, Hi-Tek and Kweli balance things exactly right - or maybe Talib is just more comfortable with this particular sound. There's nothing underground to the production on this album and by that I mean it sounds very clear and crisp. There are no crackles in the sound like you might hear on an underground production. The sound isn't distorted at all and the samples don't necessarily sound like samples. In fact, it seems like most of the production has been done with actual live instruments, Dr. Dre style (founded more in Soul and R&B than Funk, however). For me the low-points production wise is the straight up "Rehab" rip-off "Midnight Hour", and the dull "Long Hot Summer" and "So Good". There are no low-points from a lyrical perspective. None. So the production slips up in 3 spots out of 15. The rest of the joint is banging and best of all, every track sounds just a bit different. It's not like Hi-Tek falls into the trap of falling into one style for each and every track.
There are so many fantastic moments on this album and so in the interest of brevity, I'll just mention a few highlights. But before I get into those, let me just say that this is the most effortless listening Hip-Hop album that I've heard so far this year. I mean, you can throw this on and just vibe out to it. Even mainstream Hip-Hop fans will enjoy these beats and the underground heads can geek out on the extreme lyricism. It's exhilarating to hear Talib just rip the mic time after time, and track after track like it was no thing at all.
"Strangers" has a bombastic double-time beat combined with some big horns and guest Bun-B rides the track like early Busta Rhymes waxing poetically about the state of the world while Talib discusses America's health care crisis and frustration about the current administration. "Got Work" is an excellent ominous beat that perfectly accentuates Talib's "fame is a femme fatale" metaphor. "Lifting Off" sounds like something you would chill out to while under the influence of your libation of choice. "In The Red" is one of my favorite toy-piano meets an electric guitar beats and is seemingly made straight for the underground with some incredible lyrics about the recent history of Soul music:
Music is the river we float and we get delivered
Like the souls of those swept away crossing the Mississippi
Honorary spokesman my focus is so scary
Vocalist for the hopeless I'm champion of my city
Cracks in the levee we're catching the last ferry
I'm plotting this application that's crashing your Blackberry
Rock-steady like Aretha has got heavy
What's that about? Cat and mouse, Tom and Jerry
Commissary get commission to prison no sanctuary
For the locked up every relationship adversary
Ain't no replacement so make a statement before you're buried
We very legendary you're ready no need to worry
Pay attention to the music
Legend has it to bury
Mixed with transition radio speakers
Marvin married his daughter in sort of a quest for a father figure
And an "e" to the end of his name you got the picture
Little Stevie Wonder was killin them at the shows
Best song writer since Smokey and Quincey Jones
Gil Scott and last poets turn their poems into song
Everybody know that my favorite Nina Simone
Rest in peace Michael Jackson I think I need a "Shamone"
Paid attention to his lyrics and wished we'd leave him alone
Leave him alone
James Brown and Michael Jackson was working until they gone
On tour just so they could make payments on they homes
Everybody cried when Usher sang them a song
Joe Jackson was promoting his label he know he wrong
Shame how our heroes is broke we call them stars
That's because when they falling to earth they falling hard
Everybody balling hard but they sound wack
If you're in the resistance, this is your soundtrack
"Ballad of the Black Gold" is a timely song about America's addiction to oil. The thing that is most striking about this album thematically is how relevant and serious a lot of the lyrics are and yet because of the combination of lyrical delivery and musical production, it doesn't feel like you are being preached to. This is the very definition of edu-tainment, but even saying that seems like a minor insult...and it shouldn't be. I hate to use the term "Conscious Rap", but that is really what this is. It may be as hard and honest as the albums that usually have that label, but I promise you it doesn't sound militant. This album is the proverbial "spoonful of sugar" that makes the message that much easier to digest. In fact, people who don't really listen to lyrics might miss that part of it.
"Just Begun" is an ill posse cut and the guest spots from Jay Electronica, J.Cole and especially Mos Def do not disappoint.
What more can I say? Ill beats, an effortless humbling performance from a brilliant MC, and lyrics that are actually about something. If you claim to love Hip-Hop in its essence for real, why don't you own this already? Seriously. To me, this is classic.
4.071 out of 5
|1. RPM's (01:06)|
|2. City Playgrounds (04:43)||4|
|3. Back Again (feat. Res) (03:26)||4|
|4. Strangers (Paranoid) (feat. Bun B) (02:51)||5|
|5. In This World (03:30)||4|
|6. Got Work (04:16)||5|
|7. Midnight Hour (feat. Estelle) (04:39)||2|
|8. Lifting Off (05:22)||5|
|9. In the Red (03:00)||5|
|10. Black Gold (intro) (00:17)|
|11. Ballad of the Black Gold (05:33)||5|
|12. Just Begun (feat. Jay Electronica, J. Cole & Mos Def) (03:36)||5|
|13. Long Hot Summer (02:22)|
|14. Get Loose (feat. Chester French) (05:33)||4|
|15. So Good (03:32)||2|
|16. Ends (feat. Bilal) (03:22)||2|
|17. My Life (outro) (03:27)||5|