Reflection Eternal
Record label: Rawkus
Format: 2xLP/CD
Release date: 17 October 2000

It was 1998 when we all took the Black Star line on home with Mos Def & Talib Kweli. 1999 saw the success of Mos Def's debut album. But for the 2K, it's all about the long-awaited Reflection Eternal joint, featuring Talib Kweli & DJ Hi-Tek. Happy to say that it meets and exceeds all expectations. First off, Kweli's skills just keep growing. While he doesn't possess Mos Def's charisma, he makes up for that with a rapid-fire delivery and brainiac-style lyricism. And let's face it: while he's a "progressive" brotha, he has no qualms against lacing his verses with obscenities. Street heads like MCs that curse; if they don't, they're considered cornballs. Add to that the fact that Kweli has crazy range - from straight rhyming and battle joints to poignant poetry. Both "Good Mourning" and "Four Women" will prove that this "real life documentarian" is writing some of the most heartfelt hip-hop lyrics next to Common.

And can't forget about my man Hi-Tek's beats. Some say that he's too simplistic behind the boards, but considering how much Talib can pack into one verse, Hi-Tek's stripped-down approach works to their advantage. Club movers like "Some Kind of Wonderful" and "Move Somethin'" are good examples, as well as "Down For The Count," a high quality party joint with Rah Digga and Xzibit blazin' mics alongside Kweli. Even as hard hittin' and bumpin' as Tek's beats are, he's got his fluid moments, too. Check "Love Language" (beautiful harmonies from Les Nubians on that one), "The Blast" or "Too Late" for some underwater-type grooves.

Since guest spots are the flavor nowadays, a gang of folk appear on Reflection Eternal. Surprisingly, they don't weigh the album down, since their roles aren't overstated or overbearing. Whether it's the singing of Vinia Mojica or Supa Dav West (he actually didn't annoy me this time - i was amazed), or the saxophone of Tedross Avery, their contributions don't take away focus from the Eternal. All guest MCs on this album deserve to be featured. Mos Def gets you fiendin' for the next Black Star project ("This Means You"), Kool G. Rap blows the spot with another perfectly tailored tale of the streets ("Ghetto Afterlife"), and De La Soul makes the head noddin' "Soul Rebels" a Spitkickin' good time. Granted, they've still got their mind in a Mosaic Thump state lyrically, but they come better on this one...just by a hair. Piakhan's my new favorite, though - his verse on "Touch You" caused me to smile. Hopefully, there's more where that came from.

Reflection Eternal will not disappoint. It's lyrically on-point with bangin' beats. If you take one hip-hop ride into 2001, it's best to be equipped with this album.

{vic feedle}

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