Reflection Eternal, "Revolutions Per Minute"

76 Billboard Rating

Brooklyn rapper Talib Kweli and Cincinnati producer Hi-Tek, who comprise the hip-hop duo Reflection Eternal, have sporadically collaborated since their 2000 debut album, "Train of Thought." But despite their notable work apart, Kweli and Hi-Tek are at their best when working together. The pair's latest collaboration, "Revolutions Per Minute," tackles heavy concepts and finds Kweli at his most political on the track "Ballad of the Black Gold," where he raps over Hi-Tek's militant beats, "Drill, baby, drill, while they make our soldiers kill." There are some moments when the mood lightens, usually for romantic fare like the funky Estelle-assisted song "Midnight Hour." But these tracks display neither Kweli's lyrical precision nor Hi-Tek's adventurous sounds. The set also falls short of its opening promise to engineer a "shift in the paradigm of hip-hop." Yet with song-stealing verses from rappers-of-the-moment Jay Electronica and J. Cole on the standout track "Just Begun," the promise may hold true in time. --Devin Chanda

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