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Posted by Kristen Imes
To know hip-hop is to have lovedÃƒâ€š Talib andÃƒâ€š Hi-Tek records. Hip-hop had its most recent hey day around the turn of the millennium, and no one repped the hunger and heart of New York like Rawkus Records. And even with such hardcore luminaries as Company Flow and Pharoahe Monch for label mates, Black Star dropped conspicuously heavy tracks. Having cemented their legendary status with an eponymous first LP, Mos Def went on to drop one more great album before effectively dropping out of the rap game altogether, leaving the remaining two-thirds of Black Star to take the weight. Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek — now calling themselves Reflection Eternal — responded with a monument to the art form.
At a time when Jay-Z was more likely to wear a shiny suit than spit stump raps for a presidential candidate, and underground heads actually had something to be elitist about, Reflection'sÃƒâ€š Train of Thought album unapologetically merged club banger drum patterns with luscious instrumentation, braggadocious rhymes with deft social commentary, all while introducing the world (by way of guest interludes) to Dave Chappelle's Rick James, bitch. Talib rapped with vicious rhyme patterns that wriggled in your auriculars like a handful of earwigs, lacing a pan-genre sampling technique of Hi-Tek's that wove the songs into one cogent, 400 thread count tapestry of sound.
The downside? The template was now laid for an inundation of lesser artists, who subsequently turned the "conscious rapper" and the "jazzy beat" into hated clichÃƒÆ’©s. While their style was being pillaged, the members of Black Star weren't able to defend that which they'd created. Mos Def embarked on his continuing descent in pursuit of unenjoyably wacky artistic expression while Kweli's rhymes became synonymous with gratuitous R&B hooks, and Hi-Tek stagnated under a contract with 50 Cent's production company.
The duo has now finally returned for a second album,Ãƒâ€š Revolutions Per Minute, their first studio collaboration in nearly a decade. If you like Talib's more recent work, then come to check him out performing with the DJ he made his name with. If you think the two have fallen off as of late, just giveÃƒâ€š Train of Thought a listen and then come catch your last best chance to hear that classic material the way it was meant to be — live and direct.
8 NW Sixth Ave